Life on the Street

May 162005
Authors: Jake Blumberg

As summer draws ever nearer with each passing sunrise, there are some people in Larimer County who can still remember the dark cold of winter.

"Winter-time is just a really tough time to be a construction worker," Jim said, spinning a can of soda slowly in his hand. "If you don't make enough in the summer, and save it, there are years you just can't make it through the winter."

This past year was one in which the summer's wages failed to be enough to pay the bills and backlogged rent during the winter months, and Jim – who has chosen to withhold his last name due to privacy concerns – found himself in a dire situation. He did not have enough money to pay for basic housing to shelter him and his 14-year-old daughter from the cold of winter in Loveland. In fact, he did not have any money at all.

"It was winter, there was no work for me at all, and I was way behind in rent," said the 42-year-old, who has been in the concrete business his entire life. "It had gotten to a point where I couldn't even get my daughter to school, because I couldn't afford a bus pass to get her there."

It was that morning – when Jim was faced with the reality of keeping his daughter home from school because of his lack of funds – that Jim reached out for help. He went into a Loveland church and asked for help from the pastor, who bought a bus pass for Jim's daughter, and pointed him in the direction of the place Jim would soon view as a blessing from God – the Interfaith Hospitality Network, also known as Angel House, 101 E. Sixth St, Loveland.

"I kept walking back and forth, back and forth, from the door of Angel House to the street," Jim said. "It was just so hard to make myself go inside."

Jim stood outside, struggling to make it inside the shelter, and grappled with an emotion many feel when asking for help: embarrassment.

"My pride was absolutely blinding me. It took me three tries to finally make it through that door," Jim said, pointing from the kitchen table to the front entrance of Angel House. "I swallowed a lot of pride to finally make it inside of Angel House. I count my blessings I finally made it through that door."

The realization that he was on the brink of being homeless finally sent Jim through the entrance, with images of his daughter pushing him to open the doors of Angel House.

"For a single parent, you would do anything for your child, and I would do anything for my daughter," Jim said. "I would do anything, anything, to keep a roof over her head and food in her stomach." He echoed once more: "Anything."

With his daughter as motivation, Jim finally made it through the entrance of Angel House. Inside, he found the opportunity he had been praying for – a place to live and succeed. Angel House provided Jim with a home that would allow him to get back on his feet, along with keeping his daughter safe, warm and well fed.

"Angel House put a roof over our heads, and food in our stomachs," Jim said. "Here, they understand that you just catch a bad break sometimes. God bless this place for being here."

Along with providing him with the necessities for survival, Angel House has also offered Jim a chance to get on a path towards success; a path involving goals beyond simply surviving the winter.

Angel House has worked with Jim to plan a future for his daughter and him, and has given him access to resources to assure he achieves the goals he sets within the walls of the sanctuary. With the help of Angel House, Jim has already begun achieving his new goals in the four months he has been a resident.

Recently, Jim began selecting courses at Front Range Community College to pursue an associate's degree in small business management and building construction management.

Yet, with all of the help Angel House has provided him, Jim believes the true key to rescuing oneself from the brink of homelessness is one's work ethic.

"There is definitely help out there for people who need it, but you have to do the legwork to get it," Jim said. "They allow you to come here (Angel House), and help you to see what direction you need to go. Once they point you in the right direction, you have to do the work to get yourself there."

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