“I ended up on the streets, homeless and literally sleeping outside, and UGM offered a place to stay. It’s better than not having a roof over your head, so that’s how I got here.” – Kevin Downey
We all need food. We all need protection from the elements. If we didn’t, the Union Gospel Mission wouldn’t exist in the first place. But those things in themselves are only a small part of the picture.
Here are three other needs – just as important as food and shelter – that he had met at the Union Gospel Mission.
Kevin’s homelessness stemmed from using drugs and alcohol to escape discomfort. “My life revolved around avoiding pain and seeking pleasure.”
The pains Kevin describes have little to do with physical discomfort; they’re emotional wounds, some of which came long ago.
“Avoiding the pain of not having a father in my life. Avoiding the pain of not having any sort of fulfillment in my job or the work that I do. Avoiding the pain of being lonely. The list goes on and on.”
At UGM, Kevin learned ways not to avoid and numb these pains but to push through them and seek healing, to “go to those hard places that I was avoiding.
“It’s life-changing,” he says. “You find far more pleasure walking through those struggles than you would avoiding it. There’s so much more life and so much more joy.”
Companions for the journey
If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. – origin unknown
At first, Kevin was in a hurry to get out of UGM. “I planned on staying just ’til I got another job and then I’d go right back out into the world and just keep going at it.”
But a family member who was in the recovery program convinced him, both by word and by example, that what he needed was permanent life change.
Kevin also found out the best way to change is to surround yourself with people who also want to change.
“It’s amazing to see [God] work through all the people here and know that he's working through me too,” he says. “I’d say the biggest impact the Mission had on me was the change I saw occurring around me: everybody going through the program getting their lives together and just taking a whole new direction. It's inspiring and it made me want to do that same.”
Hope for the future
Life is finally exciting for Kevin as he continues to follow Christ and seek personal growth.
On top of completing the program, he also pursued a smoking cessation class through the UGM Clinic. “It was one of my goals when I came into the Mission, not just to overcome one particular addiction in general, but to overcome any addiction that I have, not just what I had at the time.”
Quitting tobacco was also another step preparing him to pursue his dream job.
“I just got a place to live and just started a new job and I’m getting ready to go to school. I’m going into the medical field and I’m getting excited about it.”
Kevin sees the key to his future success isn’t in the absence of problems but in the courage to tackle them head-on – with a little help.
“Walking through my struggles all revolves around faith. You have God with you by your side every step of the way. … It really just helps me through any struggle, knowing that he’s got a purpose for this and it’s going to be all right.”
Ending Kevin's homelessness started with food and shelter at UGM. You can get someone started on a life-changing journey by providing three meals and a safe place to sleep.