Stories from the Shelter
Story 2 – Choosing a different path
“I am 56 years old and for the first time in a very long time I am doing pretty good, which is great to me when I look back and see again how bad I screwed up my life, which you only get one of.
I arrived at Project ECHO after my released from prison. I didn’t want to return to where I grew up. I heard of this place when I was in the southern MD pre-release unit. I was released on a Friday, and I came to Ms. Lori’s doorstep and was told there were no beds open, and I would have to wait ‘till Monday.
I ended up back where I spent most of my time, it was raining and dark, and I didn’t know what to do. I stopped at a little bar I know and got some cigarettes, a pint of Jack Daniels and 2 beers. I went and sat in a tunnel, drunk the stuff, and tore up all my prison papers.
Then, walking toward my old stomping grounds, I see a street. On that street is a house I know, a place to go and be out of the rain and cold. But it is also a crack house, a shooting gallery, and lots of other things. If I go there, I know I’ll end up just like before, strung out on heroin, crack, and liquor. I’ll end up stealing again, not seeing my parole officer, a warrant would be issued for parole violation. I’d be living day by day, till I either died, got killed, or ended up back in prison.
I didn’t want that, so I kept walking past that street. I went to a bridge and slept. The next day, a friend picked me up and let me stay with them ‘till Monday and they brought me back to Project ECHO. Had I not gone back I don’t know where I’d be. I do know my life would not be as good as it is right now, and my future is actually looking pretty good.
I did my intake interview with Miss Lori, who seemed skeptical of me, but after talking and her laying out the do’s and do-nots, she allowed me in and gave me a bed. Again, I thank God and Lori. I thank the whole Project ECHO staff for just being there, I thank all the churches, civic groups, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, and everyone else that donates their time, help, support, and love to Project ECHO. Since I’ve been there, I’ve been blessed with meeting a lot of really decent people.
Through this program, I was able to save money for when I left. I learned how to start a bank account, pay bills, budget, pay insurance on a vehicle, work a steady job, and basically live a normal life, which I had never done. I spent 27 years of my life in prison. I’d stay out for a while and end up back in prison for violating parole. I wouldn’t let go of drugs and alcohol, I wouldn’t change people, places, and things. Now I have, and I thank God every day for this new life and for Project ECHO.
For me, I will continue to always strive to do better for myself, which is Project ECHO’s goal. I will always be grateful for being allowed to enter the program, and I will always try to help another person in a bad way, as Project ECHO helped me.”
Story 1 – Excerpt from a letter written by a former resident
“In August 2007, my children and I moved into Project ECHO. We had 3 months that seemed to fly by so quickly.
To be perfectly honest, I was afraid to even go to Project ECHO because of the image that television portrays of homeless shelters. It’s a horrible image and I’m ashamed to admit it, but I believed it to be true. However, my perception has definitely changed. While at the shelter, I realized that the homeless are “NORMAL” people, who just like me, were down on their luck.
I’m glad I had a chance to broaden my way of thinking, however, that’s not the only thing I’m walking away from this experience with.
Project ECHO did more than just give my children and I a place to sleep and food to eat. It gave me time for self-reflection, to set goals and a chance to receive guidance along with priceless advice from the staff. The counseling I received from the staff alone means so much to me. It helped me through one of the toughest times in my life and I will be forever grateful for that support. Because of the staff (and some residents) I was able to pull myself together when all I wanted to do was give up.
My children and I have all come to think of you as extended family and will miss you all very much. You all will forever have a special place in our hearts.”
The letter came with this poem at the end:
“When we were at an absolute low,
With no one to turn to and nowhere to go,
We found people that helped us to keep moving forward and grow,
At a special little house they call Project ECHO”
Thank you for supporting us!”