I'm 34 years old. I was born and raised in Oregon City, Oregon. Life growing up was like a broken home. My mom was always at work. My dad was an alcoholic who was sexually and physically abusive to me, and my sisters. This went on from the ages of three to ten. I have 11 siblings, all half and I'm the baby. I looked to my older brother Stacey. We were close. Growing up as a child sucked at my house.
I started drinking when my dad put alcohol in my bottle. I was a baby, an infant. It was pretty much to knock me out, and put me to sleep. When I grew up my mom and dad they had alcohol around. Me and my sisters, we would wait until they got messed up enough, and we would drink ourselves. I was seven years old, and my sister was 17. We were drinking from the bottle and cups. The rule of the house was if you drank you didn't leave the house.
My mom was always at work. So was my dad pretty much. From the age of seven to twelve my first drug was alcohol, and then from there, I went to marijuana. At the age of twelve I did a little bit of speed.
I've done speed my whole life ‘cause I was a hyperactive kid. So I had to take Ritalin, and a thing called Tenex. Tenex is a form of speed. I was taking 200mg of speed a day. Basically the speed would keep me focused, and then they would give me a downer to go to sleep at night.
I started doing dope (Methamphetamines), when I was 19. I was smoking and snorting it for the first seven years of my use, and realized I got violent from snorting it. I shot up once, and did not like the way it made me react, so I never did it again. So I went from snorting it back to smoking it. I kept smoking it ‘till five years ago (age 29), when I realized I needed to get clean. I was headed down a path to nowhere. I had no faith. I had nothing, other than me, and my drugs. That's all I cared about.
I was 17 years old, and I was in a group home. They said they couldn't work with me anymore because; I was causing problems in the community. So, my mom dropped me off in downtown Portland at that point, and I became homeless that day. I was homeless from 17 until I was 29 years old.
I lasted a week downtown before I was almost killed. I was thrown off Burnside Bridge.
Downtown was crazy. I didn't know how to be homeless. I didn't know what it meant to be homeless. Everybody was basically for themselves. In downtown Portland, I made a lot of enemies really quickly, without even trying to have problems with anybody. I got into a fight with a white Supremacist ‘cause he took my cigarettes. He wanted me to fight him, for my pack of cigarettes. I told him I wasn't going to fight. I just gave them to him. So they saw me as a push over. After that circumstance happened, I move out here to the Flats, and learned how to become a productive member, of the homeless community. (Felony Flats is a neighborhood known for drugs and prostitution).
At the Clackamas Service Center (an organization providing services to the community), I was doing food boxes, for the homeless while I was still homeless. I was working with a man named Dan who took me in, as one of his kids. He took me under his wing. Between him and James, they both taught me how to be a man out on the street. Before that I didn't have any morals. I didn't care who you were, or what you had. It was mine. That's not how you live on the street. That's how you make enemies. Before I came out to the Flats I was a thief. I was a liar. I was your worst enemy.
Out here in the Flats there were more family oriented people. I learned that I could click with people better out there. I could talk with somebody. They didn't try to use me for their advantage. Somebody actually generally cared. Downtown Portland, they didn't even care. The minute I got jumped downtown, and I went to my street parent to tell them what happened, they called me a snitch ‘cause I had a cop card in my hand. That's why I got thrown off Burnside Bridge, ‘cause they thought I was a snitch. Out in the Flats people go by word of mouth, and reputation. People know I'm not a snitch, and they actually gave me a chance. So there are people actually willing to give people chances out here.
One of the first people I met when I came out here to the Flats was Trevor. He took me in since day one. I'm like a brother to him. What I learned on the streets, don't say what you see. You don't go after woman and children. You don't steal. You stand up for what you believe in. There are people in the Flats with integrity and moral values.
On the street, winters sucked. It was always rainy or cold. I always had good winter clothing and tents. It's just the tent would float down the creek. Heavy rains made the creek overflow.
Summers were awesome. I loved the summers because all we did was hang out on the trail, listen to music and BS with each other and party.
Things get pretty bad on the streets. Sometimes it's a whole group of people fighting. One dude came to confront another for hitting a girl, and all of a sudden it was a complete brawl. This was at a camp site. I've seen a lot of people get assaulted and beat up bad. It makes me angry. It's one of the other things I couldn't stand about being on the street. I'm a very angry person, due to my sexual abuse. When I see somebody hurting someone the first thing that pops into my mind is that I want to hurt that person. However, walking a Christian walk, I realize that's not right. We have to walk away and forgive.
While I was in my addiction I was hanging out with this teenage kid, and we were drinking and smoking. A girl I know showed up, and the kid said he was going to rape her. I literally slammed him into the ground, bear hugged him. This kid punched me in the face six times. He bit me in the side. He stabbed me in the kidney with something sharp. We were rolling around in the briers. All I knew is that I wasn't letting go of him till the cops showed up. Rape is a big issue. It's just not seen. People go randomly missing off of the street, and you don't know where they go or why.
I've seen a lot of overdoses. One of my best friends went to treatment, and found out that he could get help with Methadone. His girlfriend overdosed him with Methadone, and he fried in the tent ‘cause nobody knew he had taken so much. She just said that he was sleeping. Come to find out that he had died ‘cause she had killed him. It was the same thing with another friend. He was hot shotted. A hot shot is when somebody gives you like 100 percent pure drug instead of having it cut with something. It goes in you, and it's so pure that it basically kills you. A hot shot can also be cut with battery acid. The drug still goes in you. It's the battery acid that kills you. I've seen someone get a hot shot twice.
I've had to learn a couple of hard knock lessons in life. For instance telling somebody you’re going to be somewhere, and you’re not there. I got a lesson from my uncle. I told my mom one day that I'll be out there to watch the dogs for her, and I didn't make it. I got woke up with five punches to my face. My uncle asked if I learned my lesson. I said, "Yes, I will never tell mom I'll be somewhere and not be there.”My mom got hurt, so because his sister got hurt, I got hurt.
That wasn’t the only lesson I learned. When I was out dealing for someone, he took his bag from me, bullied me, and scares me to the point where my dad said, "No, you're not doing this anymore."
I decided to take it out on my own. That's how I made money. That's when I got popped with the control buy. I got a control buy charge. I got PCS (Possession of Controlled Substance), and DCS (Delivery of Controlled substance). A control buy is where I got set up, to where I bought the drugs. They followed me from the place where I bought the drugs, and went all the way to my friends’ house, and arrested me. Because of how much I had on me, it was enough for a DCS. They dropped the delivery when I told them it was my everyday medication. I had baggies. No, it wasn't a prescribed medication. Not by a doctor. It was my own way of regimenting it out where I could use it so I didn't run out.
The judge gave me a choice. I could go to prison, or I could do treatment. I said treatment. Next thing I know I'm on 15 months probation, and I go see the probation officer. She said, "You're not living where you were, because you're on the streets, and you can get drugs any time or place. We're going to put you in this program. "That's when I said. Ok. I'm done.
The night before that even happened I traded somebody some meth for heroin, because I wanted to go to sleep. I felt so bad. I was up for 20 something days. I wanted to sleep. In the middle of a rain storm I got on my hands and knees and I said, "God, if this be your will, take it away. It's ain't mine. I don't want it." Ever since then I stayed away from it, except for one mishap. I haven't touched it since. I'm looking at 15 months clean. I had 36 months before that.
When I got off the street I went to a program called Bridges to Change. It's a 90 day program. They helped me get a job, turn my life around. I held my job for six years. Bridges was a group that supported me. They gave me a roof over my head. The only thing I had to do was, go to meetings, do my treatment, and do everything probation wanted me to do. It's a great program.
I still go to meetings to this day. I hold a meeting on Mondays, because somebody's got to be there, for the suffering addict. Since I’ve been cleaned, I had way too many people die on me in my addiction, than the time I spent on the street using.
**Bridges to Change: Their mission is to strengthen individuals and families affected by addictions, mental health, poverty and homelessness. For additional information phone (503) 465-2749; or email address bridgestochange.com
I'm Bipolar. That's genetic by the way. PTSD was from the sexual trauma in my life, and from being almost killed downtown. I have anxiety, I have depression. I use to take medication for my bipolar and for my depression. Now I just smoke marijuana and it takes it all away.
Life On The Street
I remember the first time I was downtown. I went and hit a library with a library card and got $120 worth of library stuff. My first night in downtown Portland, as I fell asleep somebody stole the bag from underneath my head. That's when I realized I can't sleep when I'm homeless or people are going to rob me. So I pretty much stayed awake the whole time. Things would get taken when you're sleeping, not looking, or away from your camp. People would just rob you, and I've just taken it. It's just a piece of property. It's not like I can't get another one. My life is not worth it, especially on the street. You don't know who the person is from Adam, or what they’re carrying on them. They could have a gun on them.
I worked two different jobs while I was on the streets. I worked at Burger King and I worked at Quizno's for a year. Then I finally got off the street.
I have a big addictive personality, which I should have known at seven years old, when I was smoking tobacco. My mom wanted me to smoke in front of her instead of behind her back. I was smoking at five years old. She caught me at seven. The bathroom garbage caught on fire ‘cause I was trying to hide it from my sister.
I had a little over 25 people die on me in the 36 months I’ve been clean. The straw that broke the camel's back was Dan, because when he died we both had gotten clean. After he got clean his pacemaker gave out and he died. Nyree called me and told me Dan died. As soon as I heard he died I threw my phone on the ground, and I immediately said F… this. I want to get high. I went outside and this kid offered me drugs. He offered me meth. I said no. I would rather smoke a bowl of weed then get high. Then it went from a bowl of weed to drinking, from drinking to going out to the flats and getting meth. I don't do well with death.
Nyree told me I stepped on it because what I did made his memory tainted, and that's not a good thing to do, for the dead. So when Ted died I reached out and called someone that had 22 years clean. He helped me calm down, and I talked to him, for like three hours instead of going out and getting high.
The people I hung out with were hard core people. People that I knew could protect me, and made sure that I would stick around. I hung out with bikers. James, Dan, Babo, Larry, Ben. I hung out with people I knew I could trust and stay safe.
It was a three day relapse. My wife came out and got me with my roommates at the time. My sister and mother were out looking for me. They didn't know if I was alive or dead. That opened my eyes. It showed me that she actually cared, and that I couldn't put my mom through that again.
I went back into the treatment program again. Now I'm off paper (probation) which I've been on for five years, and I'm doing everything I'm suppose to do. Now I can do everything I want to, including go to Colorado to be with my son. I've got my daughter back in my life. I've got Christ in my life, which 10 years ago I didn't have that. 10 years ago I hated God. I didn't believe in Jesus. All because my ex fiancé was murdered. She was stabbed, raped, and burned underneath the Steel Bridge in Portland. I couldn't understand why God would have allowed something so horrendous happen to somebody. Someone told me we have to have suffering to have compassion. Ever since then I started going back to church, and that's how it started.
My first baby's mom is my 14 years old, Kaylies mom. She was 16 and I was 19. I was homeless and she had met me at church. We hooked up at the church, and she brought me to her house. I had a shower and a place to stay. We ended up hooking up and her mom was ok with it. Next thing I know she's pregnant. Six months later she kicked me out of the apartment, so I went back to being on the streets again.
When Kaylie was born I got to see her once. She brought her into the old neighborhood to a sex offender’s house at 18 months old, which is the last time I saw her, ‘cause I told my babies mom if you don't wise up I'm going to take our kid. I had a job, I was responsible, and I had a roof over my head at the time, because a family took me in. Their only stipulation was I stayed off dope and they would help me. So she left the state with my kid. The very next day, as soon as that happened, I went back to the street. I went back to using 10 times as hard as I was before, just trying to numb the pain.
Just recently I got a DNA test because I found out she moved back to Oregon City. Come to find out Kalie is mine, after 13 years of her mom lied to her, and me both saying she's not my kid. I finally got my daughter in my life. She calls me father, not her dad, which is something I'm working with. I got Geno who is 10 years old, which is my wife's son, which I made when I was 24, and didn't know it. Geno is in Colorado, and my daughter lives here in Oregon City. We're talking about moving to Colorado if everything works out. Now I work for different stores at Dollar tree. I have been there almost six years.
I knew if I went to prison I probably wouldn't make it out ‘cause I was a young dumb kid, who didn't have any respect for anyone. I knew treatment was my only way out, and that God would see me through it, just like he saw me to it.
I went to a place called LifeWorks. You could read pamphlets about what drugs do to your body, about the long term effects, and how it affects you in the short term. You can learn about all these different drugs, and what not to do because of what they do to you. Like a hit of meth puts a hole in your brain the size of a quarter. I didn't know that until I went to treatment.
Narcotics Anonymous and Bridges to Change also helped me change. I stay in contact with my sponsors from NA (Narcotics Anonymous), and I see the mentors at Bridges now and then. My house manager and mentor were both in the NA program, and they were very hands on.
**LifeWorks NW can help Reach out. Find a Service near you. Contact us at 503-645-9010 or 1-888-645-1666 to get help for yourself or a friend. LifeWorks Helping people by offering caring services is the core of LifeWorks NW
**Narcotics Anonymous Portland Area Phone line: 503-345-9839; or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Peer pressure is a crutch. Once you've had as much clean time as we've had, and you choose to go out, and do something, it is no longer peer pressure, it is no longer nobody else other than yourself. When I went out there I knew what I was doing. I knew I was going to get high. I knew how to do it, where to go, and who to get it from. I was even willing to face the consequences, because I made a deal with James. I told James if I touch dope again you could punch me. He's a golden glove boxer. When I went back out there and used that dope. He got me high. He's like, "Here son, you want to hit this?" I said, sure and he said, "What did I tell you was going to happen, if I caught you with a dope pipe in your hand?" He did see me take a hit. He punched me. That's my street dad.
I think my biggest road block is the people out here on the streets, wanting to know if their ok. They are wanting to fix their situation, because they see my situation is better now. It's hard. My heart calls to help the less fortunate. I don't know how to help, because every time I try to help, nothing seems to get done. Like the commissioner telling the homeless they could move somewhere, but change their mind.
That's the thing. No matter how many buildings you put up for the homeless, if you put the stipulation that they can't do what they do, they're going to be against it. I have a friend, his name is Shaggy. All he does is smoke weed. He got approved for an apartment, but they want him to give UA (Urinalysis drug screen), because they don't want him smoking weed anymore. He wouldn't take the apartment. I'm like "I don't understand bro; do you like living under a bridge? Freezing your butt off in the cold?" I would have taken that choice so I could have an apartment. I do have one reservation. If I do lose everything, I don't know how I'm going to cope with that. If one little mistake happens, and I do end up going to jail one day, I will lose my job, and I end up at square one. I don't know how I'm going to handle that. The addiction I have is going to be there for the rest of my life. I'm a recovering addict.
Trying to stay clean and being homeless was not a very easy task, because it's everywhere.
Me, I’m actually doing the work and staying clean and sober. A friend of mine, who wouldn't talk to me for six years, hit me up out of the blue. He said, "Hey, since you’re clean and sober, I'd like to move you and your wife into my house."
There has been a lot of restoration. Me and my sister we haven’t talked in five years. We actually had a heart to heart conversation on Christmas. We sealed the issues we had with each other. My mom is more present in my life. My family doesn't see me as the black sheep any more. I can come out and see them any time I want because I'm clean. I'm married. My kids are back in my life. Every blessing that I could have asked for has come true since I have come back to Christ. All because I walk in faith.
I sing for the church because that's how God got through to me, was through the music. I know that if the music can reach me, then it can reach others as well. I've been going to church for the last five years. It's the one thing I look forward to every day of the week. I bring my friends because I know that if God can help me, he can help anybody.
For anyone who does not understand addiction or homelessness. Spend a day in their shoes. See if you can survive a day with no money, no nothing. Addiction is very cunning, baffling, and powerful. It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter if you're the smartest guy in the world. It has no judgment. It chooses who it chooses. What I saw on the street challenged my faith a lot. But once I got back into church, hearing the music and the message, it wasn't that bad anymore.
The streets are where I found my family. They were accepting.