Category Archives: Homeless

From A Graduate – Andrew’s Story

Hello. My name is Andrew Zebley, and I am a sober, recovering alcoholic and drug addict. I never thought I would be able to say those words. The plan I had for my life before sobriety was to miserably live out my days on the streets until I was in jail, or if I was lucky, end up dead. But, that isn’t my life anymore. I have been blessed with the right people, circumstances, willingness, and open mindedness to do something different with my life.

Nothing in life made me an alcoholic and a drug addict, but it was the way I dealt with the problems in my life. By the age of 21, I had lost control of my life through the use of drugs and alcohol. I was homeless, living on the streets, and running from legal issues. I had become a liar and a thief. I had accepted my circumstances at the time and thought for sure I was going to die that way. Toward the end of my time using, I found out that my mom was re-diagnosed with cancer and was dying. At this point in my life, I didn’t care about anything but finding a way to escape my reality. I hurt everyone I came into contact with, with little to no regard for their feelings or well being. I started to use up all of my resources. I was running out of options, and knew something had to be done.

I got sober November 7, 2014. I was a 22 year old child with no understanding of responsibility, and no direction for my life. To be honest, I had no idea my journey from that day until now would lead to long term sobriety. When I walked into detox I was dirty and sick, weighing 125 pounds. I never could contently sustain my habit, and it was getting cold and I needed a warm place to stay. I followed suggestions and went to treatment. When finishing my stay at treatment I remember being so scared of leaving because I did not have a plan and I had nowhere to stay. I still had no intentions of staying sober at the time because drinking and doing drugs was the only way I knew how to live. It was suggested that I go to Friendship House, and I was open enough to give it a try.

From the moment I was interviewed at Friendship House, I could tell it was a special place. The counselors really cared about me and they had just met me. It was a place that gave someone like me a chance, even when I felt I didn’t deserve it. I had no idea how I was going to stay sober, let alone work a job, pay bills, handle fines and legal issues. I was truly lost and needed direction.

While at Friendship House I had a healthy dose of structure, and began to build relationships I hold dear to this day. I started working with a sponsor, got connected with other sober alcoholics and a fellowship of people who were also trying to maintain sobriety. I learned the importance of honesty and facing the troubles in my life head on. I learned how to become a functioning member of society and a responsible adult. I planned financially to take steps forward in my life, and after my stay at Friendship House, I moved out with the roommate I had there. We are still best friends to this day.

The life I live today is beyond my wildest dreams. I may not have everything, but I have a positive perspective on my life. I have a solution to deal with everyday problems.

I still hold Friendship House close to my heart. In January of this year, I lost my mother. Within a week, I found myself sitting in Friendship House talking with the counselors and crying. This organization is not just my old halfway house, with counselors and house managers. Friendship House is my family. The staff care so much and I have grown to love them. I still pop in during free moments in my week and I am always so happy I did.

The thing in my life I have the utmost gratitude for is my sobriety. I am also thankful that Friendship house was a part of my story and helped make that possible.

If anyone reading this is struggling, just know, you’re not alone. There is always a hand ready to reach out, all you have to do is ask for help.

– Andrew Zebley

Spring Is Just Around The Corner

As the east coast managed it’s fourth nor’easter in March, many people wondered out loud, “Will spring ever come?” I heard many respond with, “Don’t worry, spring is just around the corner.” That reminds me of the children’s story collection about two of my favorite characters, Frog and Toad, created by Arnold Lobel. One story in particular is called “The Corner,” where a grumpy yet loving Toad expresses dread at their ruined day due to cold rain. Frog, with his ever consistent optimism, makes tea and distracts Toad with a story about how his father once explained to not fret because “spring is just around the corner.” This led young Frog on a search around every corner looking for spring.

Why does Frog go looking for spring? Is he not patient in waiting? Or, has he lost hope that spring will come? Maybe he feels he has to find it in order to believe it is actually there.

Many of our clients and residents come to us after looking around corner after corner for their spring, their new life, and often hope that has been lost. They come to us broken from harsh winters of their own: drug addiction, homelessness, abuse. Often these men and women wonder if spring will ever come. It is Friendship Houses’ mission to remind them that spring and new life are always right around the corner.

All too often hope fades away when one is stuck in a dark place and wandering lost in the wilderness. It takes deep faith and hard work to find the best pathway out. Many pathways lead to other dark places, but finding the pathway home is a journey of its own. And it is a journey Friendship House takes with thousands of individuals every year.

For many spring brings the celebration of Easter; a time to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At Friendship House we experience Easter every day as we work with our clients and witness new life born out of darkness. These moments, although not uncommon for us, are always special and beautiful. They are the moments when a resident hits a milestone—1 week clean, 1 month clean, 1 year clean. Easter for us happens when a client, who has been living in the shadow of her dead daughter’s overdose, lets the past go and whispers, “I am going to be OK.” This miracle happens when a homeless man finally gets a job, then an apartment, and then sees his son for the first time in three years.

At Friendship House, we witness new life no matter the time of year and regardless the weather. We get to be part of someone’s journey as they find a  pathway out of the dark woods where they find spring—just around the corner.

What happened with our friend Frog from the story “The Corner”? As he went around his fourth and final corner, Toad asks his friend Frog, “What did you see?” Lobel writes:

“I saw the sun coming out,” said Frog. “I saw birds sitting in a tree. I saw my mother and father working in their garden. I saw flowers in the garden.”

“You found it!” cried Toad.

“Yes, I found the corner that spring was just around.”

If you find yourself in a dark place, keep faith and remember: Spring is always around the corner.

– Kim Eppehimer (Executive Director)

Shirley’s Reflections

I started working at Friendship House on February 13, 2000. At that time, Epiphany House was located at Fourth and Rodney Street (1411 W. 4th Street) and we were renting. A lot has changed since then.

Unlike now, most of the residents at that time were women who were homeless because of economic reasons or domestic violence; only a few came from drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.

In 2000, Marcy Perkins was the Director of Women’s Ministry, which included the Women’s Day Center, the Clothing Bank of Delaware and 3 women’s transitional housing properties.  Now, the Clothing Bank has its own ministry director. The Men’s and Women’s Day Centers have been combined into the Wilmington Empowerment Center, and we have added Empowerment Centers in Newark, Middletown and Mill Creek.

My how things have changed.

Currently, we have six (6) women’s houses. In 2000, we had three, renting one. Now we own all of them. In 2000, we owned two (2) men’s houses out of three (3). Today we have six (6) houses for men, including the first Friendship House site outside the city of Wilmington (Corner House).

As I look back over the time I have been at Friendship House, I see the hand of God at work in the Housing Program and in the lives of the women who passed through the program. Starting in 2004, events leading up to the addition of each house have been a marvel to me.

My years with Friendship House have been a bitter/sweet experience. Bitter/sweet because of the women I have encountered there: women who continue to live clean and sober lives; women who continue to struggle with addiction; those who have died being addicted; and those who have died from the damage which addiction had done to their bodies.

I also think of the times we have had to ask women to leave the Housing program for one reason or another. Some have gone on to improve their lives while others have not. There are always interesting circumstances surrounding the issue of asking a woman to vacate the Program. Some circumstances are heart wrenching and some are very surprising–almost funny–but these times are always memorable. You just do not forget them.

Lasting memories are often created at the dinner table. The women will let their hair down (so to speak), be themselves, and share some of the interesting moments in their lives. Then there are the private moments when we get serious about what is ahead for them. As I interact with the women, lo and behold, I am learning things about myself also.

The Housing Program is constantly changing to meet the needs of the individuals who enter into partnership with the Program. If an element is no longer working, it is deleted or adjusted to accomplish what the program anticipates. Even though changes may be made to the Program, each participant must put in the necessary work to see the change in themselves and in their lives as they make progress toward getting their own lives back on track.

This is the Partnership that the Housing Program has with each individual that enters. We owe it to each resident to do our best so that they can get the best from the Program.

– Shirley Prichett

Answering the Call After 30 Years

Several weeks ago my family watched a caterpillar shed its skin and build its chrysalis, right in front of our eyes. I have always been amazed at the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. Being able to watch this part of the process was a true blessing. It took just under 4 minutes to build the home where the little body of the caterpillar will live for around 14 days and become something larger and different. Something bringing joy to people through its beauty and peace. Something that offers sustainability to our fruits and flowers keeping the cycle of life going. And throughout this process, God is there. God orchestrated this and every other natural process. And it is truly awe-inspiring. Nothing is left the same after God has been there, and if open to this change amazing things can happen.

 

(Video of the caterpillar we watched forming its chrysalis.)

As humans, do we have a choice to responding to God’s call? Is the caterpillar able to say no to this completely life altering transformation? Just as we are unable to stop the raging storms, the natural process can not be stopped without divine intervention.

However, is not so for us humans. Listening to the call is a choice and it is easy to ignore the voice tugging at our soul. Questions easily arise: Am I really being called by God? Am I worthy? Am I able? Why me? I don’t think a caterpillar asks such questions. It just knows what to do, and most importantly, when. Its natural instincts lead the way for when to eat, sleep, and transform.

With a dedicated staff who have chosen to be part of this mission, 1,500 annual volunteers searching for a way to give back, and over 100 faith communities offering various levels of support, Friendship House has been answering the call to serve our community of homeless individuals for the past 30 years; individuals who came to Friendship House in need of a pathway forward, and someone who can offer hope that the pathway exists for anyone.

Friendship House is a chrysalis in its own way. It is within our cocoon of loving and caring people anyone open to God’s call can be transformed into someone different; someone capable of an enriching life giving back to our own cycle of life.

As long as the call is answered, we can continue to serve for another 30 years. Saying yes to the call, we are blessed with the opportunity of becoming more faithful servants. By saying yes we open ourselves to the opportunity of inner transformation that can be life altering.

As Paul tells us in his letter to Timothy, “Keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the good news, and fully carry out the ministry God has given to you.”

With the need growing in our community and resources thin, the call is just as real today as it was 30 years ago when Friendship House first started. There is no time like today to say yes to the call. I pray you will join us to serve those who are looking for a path to a life we know they are worthy of living —worthy because they are our brothers and sisters. Walk with us, as we walk with those who are losing hope of  a path that leads to their own inner transformation. Together, we can answer the call.

The life cycle of the monarch caterpillar. We saw it eating milkweed, shed its skin and build its chrysalis, and then become a butterfly.

– Kim Eppehimer (Executive Director)

Faith, Hope and a Miracle

This story, as part of our 30 for 30 campaign, comes to us from Donna Johnson, one of our housing graduates, who we have been blessed to walk with over the past year.

My story is truly one of hope, faith, love, support, prayer, and a miracle.  Five years ago, my life was a train wreck.  The grace of God landed me on the doorsteps of Friendship House (FH), which changed my life. With the help of the staff I was able to build the foundation that would support me for the journey I was about to take. I remained clean and sober, became employed, gained self-confidence, earned my GED, rebuilt my relationships with my family and started attending Delaware Technical Community College.

After I graduated from FH,  the staff remained my biggest support system. They were always there for me whether it was in laughter or tears. With only two semesters until graduation from Del. Tech., I came into some difficulties with my living situation. I was so blessed that Marcy opened her doors to me once again to enable me to complete school.

In my last semester (Thanksgiving night), I found a lump on the side of my neck that was diagnosed as Stage 4 throat cancer.  Now I began a physical and emotional rollercoaster ride that, through God’s grace, everyone went on with me. The next month and a half was crazy. I was taking two classes, doing my internship, working and traveling back and forth to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia PA. I was blessed that when my professors heard what was happening they allowed me to work at my own pace. This allowed me to complete my classes and my internship before treatment started.

The first month and a half of this journey was figuring out what type of cancer I had and how to treat it. There were several CAT scans, PET scans, a Laryngoscopy and Biopsies done.  The results of the test resulted in a new diagnosis and treatment.   It started with the mildest type of cancer I could have to the worst type. The first treatment was two major surgeries with radiation and chemotherapy; that changed to taking a trial drug along with radiation and chemo because the cancer had spread and surgery was n longer an option. This was a very emotional time and I was so grateful for the support from everyone at Friendship House.

The first two weeks of treatment were tough because I had a mega dose of chemo and was having radiation every day (twice on Friday). For the first five weeks, I was able to drive myself to Philly but that was about all I could do. The chemo made me sick and the radiation was building in my system causing a lot of fatigue. I did manage to attend my graduation with Marcy and Mary Ann by my side. I was then given the second mega dose of chemo and that is when things went very bad. We realized that the cancer was not responding to treatment, in fact it had mutated and was growing. I was told that we would continue treatment but that I probable only had a year to live. I was so blessed with a group of prayer warriors from Friendship House that gave me the faith to move forward.

At this point, I was no longer able to drive myself to the cancer center. Without a second thought, Bill and Marcy and 2 FH Board members began to drive me every day. They were so humbling that they made me feel as if I were doing them a favor. On one trip with Bill and me, I was so sick I could not stay conscious. Bill stayed by my side for hours while they stabilized me and I was admitted to the hospital.  Only a few hours from then Marcy and Mary Ann drove up to make sure I was okay.  When I was released, the daily treatments began again.

When the treatments ended, I was in the worst shape of all. My throat continued to blister on the inside and out. Everyone at the house continued to care for me. They came several times a day to check on me, bringing me support and smoothies. I am getting better every day but could never have gotten through this journey without the friendship house. They have supported me spiritually, physically, financially, and in any other way they could. Thank you will never be enough for what they have done in my life. I am forever in your debt.

On July 18, 2017, I received the best possible news:  I am cancer free!  Miracles really do happen.  Thanks be to God.

– Donna Johnson