A life changed…meet Lamont

The plans for our new Men’s Service Center, featured in yesterday’s Orlando Sentinel article, have us pretty excited.  Our dream of being able to offer homeless men services to give them a “hand up” to self-sufficiency is actually going to come true!

As we look to our future, we don’t want to overlook what we are able to do today to help these men, particularly those addicted to drugs or alcohol.  Since 2002, our First Steps Substance Abuse Recovery Program for men has served over 1000 clients.  More than 40 percent have returned to a life of sobriety and independence, such as Lamont. We want to share his story with you.

Seven years of crack-cocaine addiction had numbed Lamont Thomas, known to friends as “Joel.”  Being homeless and sleeping in shelters was tolerable.  He accepted the alienation from his family as deserving.  His lack of steady income made him typical among his addicted friends.  In short, he lacked the motivation to sober up.

One January day in 2006, Lamont felt a flutter in his heart.  Terrified and fearing the worst, he called 911 and went to the hospital by ambulance.  As he listened intently to the doctor’s explanation that he had nearly overdosed and the drugs were putting intense strain on his 50-year-old heart, he made a decision.  He wanted to live!

Lamont’s lifesavers

When he left the hospital, Lamont immediately came to the Coalition, where he had spent countless nights on the floor of the Men’s Pavilion.  He sought a First Steps case manager and disclosed his newfound desire to conquer his addiction.  His unwavering commitment to his decision to become clean made him a perfect fit for the intensive, 12-step based program.

Though he admits it was not easy, Lamont calls First Steps and his case manager his “lifesavers.”  He appreciated the “tough love” tactics imposed to weed out the indifferent participants.  The kitchen work and bathroom-scrubbing helped Lamont once again appreciate the value of hard work and reinstilled his sense of pride.

Lamont completed the 30-day probationary period that requires First Steps residents to stay on property, and immediately visited Goodwill Services’ Employment Retention Specialist, who assisted him in finding a job.

With several months clean, a steady job, and a notable savings account accumulated through deposits required by his case plan, Lamont focused on his group meetings and found inspiration in former addicts’ stories as he prepared for his own return to the community.

Finally, Lamont and his case manager agreed that he was ready for transitional housing and he was placed in an apartment through the Coalition’s Scattered Site Housing Program.  The program temporarily paid a portion of his rent and required that he stay in compliance with his case plan.

Life Happened

Everything was progressing well when, as Lamont states, “life happened.”  He fell ill with severe pneumonia that required lung surgery.  Fourteen days in the hospital and two months out of work landed the formerly homeless man in an unexpected place: home.

“The program works,” says Lamont.  “Because of the budget and savings I had in place from First Steps and Scattered Site, I was able to continue to pay my rent and support myself while I recovered from surgery.”  His work ethic also compelled his boss to hold his job for him during the medical leave.

And life today….

Lamont has been clean and self-sufficient for four years, a testament to what can happen with determination and guidance.  He still lives in his own apartment, works at the same job, and owns a car.   He consistently attends recovery meetings, and comes back to the Coalition to share his story of hope with the men.  His children now call him regularly and are truly proud that he’s their father.

If that’s not a life changed, what is?