But things changed. Rodney, now 58, lost his wife to cancer after more than a decade of marriage. When that heartache was followed by a divorce from his second wife and the loss of his home, Rodney struggled.
Looking for hope and a change of scenery, Rodney left his home state of Pennsylvania and headed west to Colorado. But when things got tough, he found himself at the Mission.
“I heard about Springs Rescue Mission, and I came down here,” he said. “I never stayed on the streets. I wasn’t into sleepin’ on the corner.”
Rodney stayed in the men’s shelter for two years before moving to the new advanced shelter in August. He says he’s doing well now — thankful for his job, his health and his bed.
“I don’t know what I would have done without [the Mission],” he said. “I would have been up the creek.”
We sat down with Rodney recently to talk about life, love and his journey back to the good life.
What was growing up like for you? I’m from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I grew up in a neighborhood called Nicetown. … I didn’t want for anything — I was spoiled. I played sports, lots of activities, Boy Scouts, Civil Air Patrol, karate, boxing. I come from a family of all women: mother, grandmother, aunts. We all lived together for a certain period of time. I was always the go-to guy for chores, grocery shopping, things like that.
What was school like? They were hippies. The teacher didn’t wear shoes. He ate bean sprouts, peanut butter and honey. It was a cool school though, because I loved photography and I could develop film there.
Were you raised in church? Yep, Southern Baptist. Church all day. It was cut and dry — that’s just what you did. … I don’t keep up with going to church, but I still believe and I pray.
What did you do for work before you came to Colorado? All kinds of stuff. I was a roustabout in the oil fields, I worked factory jobs, in restaurants. Back then, jobs were plentiful. If you didn’t like something, you could just do something else. It’s not really like that anymore.
How did you become homeless? My son was stationed in Colorado, so I moved out here. It was pretty comfortable, but my son stopped paying his rent, and then he left. … He left me stuck with a $1,200 apartment I couldn’t pay for with half of a job. I worked day labor until they came and evicted me. That’s when I heard about Springs Rescue Mission, and I came down here.
So you came straight to the Mission — you were never on the streets? No, I never stayed on the streets. I wasn’t into sleepin’ on the corner.
What was it like to become homeless? It’s a culture shock — being with a group of people that … you never paid attention to. You see ‘em on the street and you walk right past ‘em. … I realized I was very judgmental. Some of these people had really good jobs and things just got out of hand.
It seems like a lot of people don’t realize that. Yeah, and it’s just hard to get out, even if you’re working. I ran into the problem of healthcare. I make too much for Medicaid, but with private insurance, premiums and copays … it all adds up. And I don’t make a whole lot of money. I think what held me up too was that I was trying to pay off some credit card debt while I was trying to get my medication and just live -— have enough clothing to stay outside all day long. It’s hard when you’re starting from scratch.
How are things now? Things are a lot better now since I’ve been at the Mission and gotten on the right medication. … I’m a dishwasher at Phantom Canyon, and I’ve been at this job for almost two years now.
What are your hopes for the future? I’d like to get back in the oil field, but that’s a very hard job. … I’ve been looking at apartments around here. That would be nice.
What are you most grateful for in life right now? I’m grateful for my health — that’s number one. I’m grateful for the Mission. … I’m thankful for the people here. There are some really awesome people here.
Subscribe to our blog to learn more about Springs Rescue Mission and others like Rodney — people who have seen tough times but are committed to breaking the cycles of homelessness, hunger and addiction in their lives. We see stories of hope and transformation lived out every day, and we’d love to share them with you.