Monday, May 8, 2017 was the night that will mark the beginning of my future, as I graduated from Wake Technical Community College. Not only was this my graduation night, but this event would also, mark the first time, I have ever finished something, I started.

I had always wanted an upper level education but never completed it when I started it.

Commencement…is defined as a beginning, as it is for me. I could not have been more proud to have walked across the stage of the Raleigh Convention Center to receive my Associate’s degree in Medical Office Administration. This degree field is definitely out of my “comfort zone”, as I have a passion for computers and other such technology, but my new major is in another technological field, which teaches me concepts in the medical world and I love it.

My course of study was rigorous and required my complete attention and dedication to it and I gladly gave it my all. I learned new concepts and methodologies within the medical field that made me want to learn more about it.

The overwhelming joy that boiled over within my soul on that special evening is due to more than receiving a degree, it was more about my becoming a positive example to those who were left in the bowels of homelessness; the existence of which I emerged.

I was homeless in the streets of Raleigh NC for almost 20 years, on and off and to find my way out of it was a most difficult process. There are those, who have never been homeless, who would always offer such clear cut solutions to getting out of it, such as, “Get a job.” What most of them don’t realize is that, when someone has a drug or an alcohol dependency, a job will becomes a larger part of the problem, not the solution, as they may think.

Human Services was of no help to me in the early to mid ’90’s when I sought to find my way out of being homeless. They told me, “As a man, you can work 2 jobs.” It was my retort, Now, you are playing the “female inferiority” complex, after lobbying for and gaining equal rights for women, now, it’s up to homeless men to work 2 jobs and not homeless women, as well? What a one-sided response to a male seeking help to get out of being homeless.

I sought to offer help to the homeless via News from our Shoes, a news publication about homelessness, I founded in 2002. There was only one hard copy printed, as there were difficulties with our printer, so it began to become an online publication, so this mission was not completed.

While doing this, I still sought to find ways for me to get out of homelessness and during the process, I would work jobs in order to rent a room in rooming houses to get out of the shelters. Clearly, this was a trap. To live in a place riddled with drugs and overflowing with alcohol would lead me back into the streets or the shelters because of my own addiction.

I bounced from job to job just to try to keep the roof of a rooming house over my head, while battling my addiction, proved to be futile.

It was in October of 2006, I decided to take a more serious approach to getting out of being homeless. I went into a treatment program called “South light” and began to attend NA classes, which were mandatory and to absorb the information, that was given. I began to take a more serious approach to getting clean at this time. I went to meetings, got a sponsor and collected key tags to mark my clean time, but I discovered there was one more arena I had to address…myself.

I had to learn to love myself, first, which was something I always had an issue with, because I felt no one else ever loved me.

In 2010, I sought outside assistance from another agency to get out of homelessness. I explained my situation to them and told them, I was at the end of my rope and was ready to give up.

The program director met with me the next day and had me to fill out several applications for housing vouchers and promised me he would walk with me until I had achieved housing.

About a month later, I got a message from my case manager at the shelter that I had a meeting for my housing voucher the next day.

They explained the rules and regulations to me and after the meeting, they handed me a stack of papers and said, “Here is your housing voucher. You have 60 days to use it, or lose it.”

I found an apartment and applied for it.

My application was initially denied, due to my criminal past. I began to seek housing elsewhere and got a call from them that Friday. They told me they got my application approved and I could come to complete the paperwork. That was June 2010.

I have recently signed my 8th lease at this complex and I could not be happier.

Though, I am grateful to Wake County for all they have done for me, I want to get off the system and be able to completely live “self-sufficiently.”

This is where my pursuit of education will come into play. I plan to get as many degrees, as I can, as long as the financial aid is there for me to do so.

I’ve got the fever and I can’t stop…nor do I want to, until I reach my ultimate goal…total self-sufficiently.

I want others who are still homeless to know “They can do it too, and even more”, as long as they apply themselves.

Thank God for never giving up on me….and for me never giving up on myself.