Joe’s Story

Some people talk about homelessness as hitting rock bottom. “But to me,” Joe says, “it’s more like being on an island. I’d burned every bridge and was all alone.”

Joe has been homeless several times throughout his adult years. When he didn’t have anywhere else to go, he’d walk a few miles out of his small town and sleep on a bike trail. “It’s cold at night, so you try and wear warm clothes,” he remembers. “You’d think your hands and feet would get cold, but it’s whole body shivers. The only thought in your mind of where you can go is jail. That’s not a good way to think—that jail is a safe haven. But for me, it was.”

Although Joe had grown up seeing the effects of addiction around him, he managed to stay away from drugs until he was a young adult. But when he was 26, an important relationship in his life fell apart . . . and soon after, so did the rest of his life.

“I felt like I was a failure, and I lost my purpose in life.” In a fog of pain, he began using drugs and he’s struggled with it ever since. Though he tried to quit several times, he didn’t have a support system in place.

Finally, after a stint in jail, a deputy sheriff blessed him with a coat, shoes and clothing and gave him a ride to Des Moines. Within days, Joe found himself at our Bethel Mission men’s shelter.

“It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders,” he recalls of his first day at Hope Ministries.“It felt caring—like the people here were going to help me achieve whatever I wanted to achieve. I’ve never had support like this in my life!”

Joe joined our life recovery program with the hope of turning his life around—not only for himself, but for his teenage son. “I want to be a better person, and I would like to be a godly example for my son.”

As he participates in substance abuse counseling, life skills classes and job readiness training, Joe says he’s letting go of his old nature and learning to be a servant leader. “I always used to feel like I was fighting for something. Now I’ve found peace, which is something I’d never had.”

His favorite classes in life recovery have been centered on relationships and healthy boundaries, both of which he says have equipped him to be a better father, brother and friend.

And he’s growing in his faith, too. “My father passed away ten years ago and I pretty much lost my faith. But when I was at Bethel Mission, I prayed again for the first time in 10 years, and I’ve prayed every day since.”

Last fall, Joe earned his high school equivalency diploma, and he recently got a new job at Embassy Suites. When he’s not working or participating in life recovery classes and activities, he enjoys his favorite hobby—reading. Some of his hopes for the future include getting into truck driving school and getting a dog—and, of course, continuing on his healthy path of sobriety, accountability and responsibility.

Joe has a special message for the donors and ministry partners who have made his life transformation possible:

“I would tell them thank you for blessing me,” he says. “The donations you give feed me and provide me with the opportunity that I’ve had to change my life. Everything from the foundation I stand on to the clothes I wear to the food I eat—all of it—thank you.”