Homeless for 30 years — now housed and sober

Daren was homeless and drank for 30 years before finding St. John’s Ministries and its shelter services

This story references suicidal thoughts. If you are struggling and need to talk with someone text 988 to get connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. There is a national network of local crisis centers that can provide free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“I didn’t have any hope.”

Those were words Daren expressed when looking back at his life and the homelessness he experienced for nearly 30 years. He was living under porches, in and out of shelters, and was an alcoholic. His life became very dark, he was depressed and suicidal. Life was a total mess.

It all began when his mother and stepdad moved to northern Wisconsin in the mid-1980s. Daren had just graduated from high school, didn’t want to move, and thought he could figure it out on his own. It wasn’t long before he found alcohol and had nowhere to stay in the Madison area.

He was homeless.

There were bouts of temporary housing on someone’s couch, and an extra room or a place to stay was promised that never came to fruition.

“Madison is party central, and I thought it was normal,” Daren said. “I didn’t recognize what I was doing and how the alcohol was changing me. I could hold down a job for 5 or 6 months through the summer until the students returned for school and I would drink and party again.”

For a while, he would improve in the summer by finding employment and temporary housing. He was on a path to success. That is until he began negative self-talk, depression set in, and he would drink again. It was a cycle of ups and downs for years that turned into decades.

“My life was toxic and I didn’t care about anything,” he stated in disgust. “I believed I could never be successful. I was a failure and just too stubborn to realize I was in denial.”

In 2012 he was diagnosed with a mental health disorder and that is when life started to turn for the better. He had a respectable place to stay and employment. At least for a year and a half until he screwed up. Daren began drinking again.

Please consider a gift to support shelter guests who are moving forward in life, like Daren has.

He eventually left the Madison area and did time in Brown County Correctional Institution. After he was admitted to Brown County Mental Health where he had a complete breakdown. Sometime later he found St. John’s Ministries and its shelter services to help the homeless.

“It was an eye-opening experience for me because I had been in shelters before,” Daren said. “The level of compassion at St. John’s was remarkable. They cared about me as a person. They immediately connected me with a case manager who helped me with the resources I needed to get my life on track. None of those options were ever presented to me in life or at others shelters I had been to. St. John’s gave me the seeds to grow inside of me and become better. It gave me hope that I could accomplish things.”

Life was changing for the better.

St. John’s Ministries connects each guest, whether in shelter or using daytime resources, with a case manager to break down barriers and find resources.

“I’ve never experienced that before where a case manager advocated for me and helped me get connected to services and resources. My case manager was on my side and in my corner to help me,” he said with emotion thinking back.

It took Daren just over a year to get his mental health disorder under control with medication and to find stable living through a NEWCAP program. His outlook on life was much brighter and continues to be.

“I have been sober and off the streets now for over five years,” Daren said. “I have my own apartment, attend Central Church and support groups like Celebrate Recovery regularly that keep me grounded and accountable.”

Daren is also no longer taking medication for his depression or anxiety.

“There are emotional things I deal with after being homeless. I was just covering up my years of alcohol abuse and mental anguish. There is a lot of hurt and pain I caused myself and my family.”

Having a support network and good people around has made a difference for him. Recovery is difficult and having friends to talk about sobriety is important and meaningful. Daren is working hard to forgive himself for past sins and those who hurt him.

“The biggest difference now is my relationship with God and the second chance given to me. Now I find ways to give back to the community. I want people to know that gratitude goes a long way. There is hope in life no matter how bad the situation someone is facing.”

Daren has returned to St. John’s to serve meals through his church at Men’s Shelter to give back and inspire. He knows that there are others going through the same struggles he did not that long ago.

“People can get out of their situation. It might seem bleak and hopeless, but it can happen” he said. “I struggled for decades. Now it is my turn to advocate for the homeless.”

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