As the weather grew colder this year, Mark finally did not have to worry about staying warm outside. After years of living on the streets, through summer and the bitter cold of winter, Mark has found HOPE for lasting change.
Mark had a rough childhood, growing up in eastern Iowa. At age 12, Mark bent to peer pressure and began drinking and smoking marijuana.
This addiction grew to include meth, and Mark found himself in and out of prison. Mark’s troubles progressed and when his relationship with his son’s mother dissolved, he really hit rock bottom.
“I became so depressed, and just gave up on life,” he said. “That’s when I first began to experience homelessness.”
With nowhere to go, Mark began living on the streets in a tent city by the river. He and five other people lived in makeshift shelters pieced together with items from dumpsters. Mark’s “home” was made out of pallets and nails. Years passed, each with bitterly cold winters, but Mark continued to feed his addictions.
“The coldest I remember it being was -15°,” Mark said. “When it’s that cold, there’s no getting warm anymore. You just layer up with what you have, and run for town first thing in the morning. The only way to sleep is to drink until you pass out. It’s a hard, hard life.”
A pastor brought Mark to a church service, and he soon accepted Jesus Christ into his life. Having only been to church twice as a kid, the Gospel was brand new to him, and was very welcome Good News! Even with Christ by his side, Mark continued to struggle with his addictions.
“Every now and then I would get sober, but my addictions always led me back to the streets,” said Mark.
Mark overdosed twice within a couple of months, and the doctors considered it a suicide attempt. So he was brought to Omaha in an ambulance and stayed in the hospital for seven days.
He heard about Open Door Mission and decided to seek shelter there this past October. After encouragement from the Men’s Director, Mark joined the New Life Recovery Program, and his life has been changed ever since.
“The classes, teaching, volunteers, and staff in the program are constantly bringing it all back to Jesus,” said Mark. “And I’m finding out that Jesus is real. Because of Him, I’m not alone anymore.”
Mark is looking forward to graduating in a few months, and is excited to see where God will take him afterwards. For now though, he is grateful for the safe, warm shelter at Open Door Mission.
“Sleeping outside in the cold, I had to worry a lot about survival,” Mark said. “I don’t have the worries no more. I’m warm, I have clothes, I have food, and I’m working towards bettering myself. I have goals.”