by Darrell Black

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] had been receiving a pension for three years when the union unexpectedly informed me that my retirement fund was expended. I had not been aware of a limit. Then, all of a sudden, my employer stopped paying me for my work. I was not able to afford my rent and was evicted.
Places I stayed were temporary. I felt depressed. I feared I’d have to sleep on the streets. A friend told me about the shelter at St. Mary’s Center. When St. Mary’s offered me a shelter bed, I felt relieved.
When I had no money, I was hungry. I found places where people receive food for free, such as the GRIP Souper Center in Richmond. GRIP (Greater Richmond Interfaith Project) offers Love, Help, Food and Work. With Love, a lot is possible. My appreciation increased for places that provide services to homeless people.
I felt for a woman living under the freeway. I could have been out there like her. She was happy to have her photo taken. She had adapted, made the best of her situation. The sign on her cart read, “Please do yourself a favor for tomorrow or any day; don’t let the hype fool you. Stay Safe.”
I spoke with several people on the streets for this project. People who are homeless can survive sleeping outside.
However, poverty and depression are stressful and stress can kill. Circumstances can draw people over the edge. Some people agreed to a photo. Many said no and raised their hands in front of their face.
After St. Mary’s shelter, I went to Second Opportunity Christian Center’s Transitional Safe House. It’s a sober living house for people serious about their recovery and belief in God. I received support to become employed and now manage a restaurant and a construction business.
I’ve learned from my experience of being homeless that I’m a warrior, a survivor.  When I was going through rough, raw stuff, people said things to me that felt hurtful. I learned that no matter what a person goes through, it’s most important not to look down on anyone.


“Anything Helps.” A man’s sign asking for help is seen through a car’s windshield: “Homeless and hungry. Can you help us please?” Darrell Black photo
“Anything Helps.” A man’s sign asking for help is seen through a car’s windshield: “Homeless and hungry. Can you help us please?” Darrell Black photo

It matters to offer encouragement and hope, and to tell a person, “Don’t give up. Life is not over. You can make life better.” I learned not to wear my feelings on my sleeves and to continually focus on changing my life.
People who are homeless need help. Services in our community for shelter, meals, health care, education, and employment are essential. Programs motivate and assist people to make real changes in their lives. Funding for these programs needs to be continued.
I give thanks to God. God brought me through and helps all who trust and believe.