Oliver served in Vietnam as a communication line man. The war left him with a broken back and heavy “Shell Shock”. Although he was able to get treatment for both Oliver was left scared for the rest of his life. The “Shell Shock” severely disrupted his ability to hold down a steady job, and had a devastating affect on his family. After a long struggle of missteps and bad luck Oliver became homeless.
He slept in garages, struggled through the winters, and lost friends to addictions and bad health. Oliver was shunned by people he met, he was made to feel unwelcome in churches, he was treated like trash and told that he was to blame for his situation.
Bob used to be homeless. I have had the chance to spend a lot of time with Bob and listen to his stories, as he’s shown me his new home and some of the places he used to sleep. Being homeless he spent about a year living in a storage unit until some one living near by complained and called the police on him. After that he lived in friends garages. He was mugged a number of time by both strangers and “friends”.
Bob has a string of health issues, some of which he has suffered for most of his life. Due to the cost of health care and insurance many of these issues have been ignored until very recently. He’s now stably housed and gets free health care but is unable to work or drive due to his health.
Here’s a short interview I did with Cowboy. Cowboy has lived an incredible life but has ended up in Muskegon and is giving back to his community.
“I am neighbour” is a project I have been involved in through my work for Community enCompass, here in Muskegon. I am neighbour Creates space for neighbours to talk about their lives, their loves and their community, scratching away at the surface of bad publicity and public opinion, to really get to the heart of what makes Muskegon tick.
70x7 is a faith based prisoner re-entry program in West Michigan. They Take inmates who have served long terms and help them re-adjust back to society. Right at the point of release, they pick inmates up from the facility, take them for breakfast, help them buy essentials and get settled in to their new life.
Its hard to imagine but freedom can be a difficult thing to deal with after so much time behind walls.
A lot can change in 15 years. Since T has come out he has had to do a lot of re-adjusting to a world he no longer recognises. He has had to re-learn job skills, how to deal with people, even how to ride a bike (you never forget). But after some time he has been able to find work as a security guard.
Ex-convicts get a hard time, no one wants to give them a job, no one wants to trust them. Its not surprising that many break parole and go back to prison where they are understood and accepted. But 70x7 are trying to break that cycle, providing support, care and understanding, providing community where its needed most.