The love of a child – one man’s story

One of our biggest rewards at Coalition for the Homeless is knowing that our services have made a huge difference in someone’s life.  We love hearing our clients share their achievements despite the obstacles; and Felipe’s story is a shining example. He openly shares his struggles with addiction and homelessness and how his recovery has made his son proud.

Felipe’s addiction began at a young age. In his home state of New Jersey, he discovered a knack for the trumpet at age 12 and began playing on weekends to earn extra income. Remembering the values his parents promoted, Felipe refused offers of alcohol and drugs during night club performances. Over time, however, his resolve wavered.

“One night I decided I could have one beer, and that is where it started,” Felipe explains.

The teen began drinking often, progressing from beer to wine and finally to using and selling marijuana. When presented with jail as his only alternative, Felipe decided to participate in a rehabilitation program. As the years passed, a sober Felipe struggled through a broken relationship that left him with a young son. Eventually, he found love again: this time with a new woman, but sadly, also with alcohol and marijuana.

After a tumultuous break-up, the father and son followed the woman to Florida, where Felipe tried to mend their torn romance while feeding his addiction behind closed doors. Unfortunately, the relationship ended, and the now-homeless father unwillingly took his son to Coalition for the Homeless, hoping the program would give them a fresh start.

After staying nine months in the Center for Women and Families (CWF), the pair moved into the Coalition’s on-site Transitional Apartments for four months. Finally, they transitioned into the community through the Scattered Site Housing Program.

Unfortunately, Felipe fell apart once more when he moved into community housing. He stopped going to 12-step program meetings and was using again within months. Not long after, Felipe lost his job, car and home, forcing his now-teenaged son to endure a second round of homelessness.

“I remember my son telling me he hated me…I couldn’t do this anymore because I was not only killing myself, but was hurting my son,” Felipe painfully recalls. Deciding to ignore his pride for the sake of his son, Felipe bravely reentered the CWF.

“At that time my son went to visit his mother, but he told me he was not coming back to Florida,” Felipe remembers brokenly. “He told me to get my life together, and that he loved me.”

Gaining strength from his son’s tough love, Felipe got serious about recovery and transitioned to the First Steps Shelter Recovery Program for Men. After successfully completing that program, he progressed into the First Steps Transitional Housing Program. More than two years clean and sober, he has recently moved into his own place.

With the help of his case managers, Felipe gained employment, began a savings account, and established a budget. He is proud to be paying child support and has regained his driver’s license while working his program. As a bonus, Felipe has now run four 5Ks through the First Steps Running Group, has given up smoking in order to maintain a healthier lifestyle, owns a car, and is doing very well at the same job.

Felipe proudly wears medallions that symbolize his two anniversaries of freedom from addiction. He plans to send his pendants, along with a medal from one of his races, to his son, who remains his inspiration.

“Today, my son is real proud of me,” Felipe beams. “He believes in me and never gave up on me.”