The Salvation Army is a place where people find hope. For some people, it is the second chance they need to change their lives for the better. Larry Hamilton experienced great success at a young age but his life soon became shackled by addiction and eventually homelessness. With time to make the changes he needed, Larry became an example of the success that a person can find through the mission of The Salvation Army.
Larry’s life moved quickly in his younger days. It was a life on wheels, traveling from city to city on the Roller Derby circuit. Larry was originally from Los Angeles, California, and grew up in a happy home. “Coming up I had a very happy family. I was brought up with my mother, father, sister, and brother. We were active in church, also Cub Scouts and the YMCA. My mother kept me busy,” says Larry. It was an active childhood that led him into professional athletics, traveling for a number of years on the circuit.
Larry had always been close to his family. His father passed away after complications from heart surgery while Larry was still a teenager, but he found comfort with his mother, brother, and sister. When his success in roller derby allowed Larry to purchase his own home at the age of 19, his older brother moved in with him. Unfortunately, tragedy soon struck again. “My brother had just bought a motorcycle. And one day I came home, and my neighbors told me that my brother had just been killed in a motorcycle accident,” Larry says.
His understandable grief started him on a hard road. “I started doing a little drinking. And then, about 5 years later, my mother passed away. And that is what really hit me. Then about 4 years later, my sister passed away,” says Larry. Without his family, he moved from Los Angeles to Louisiana to work as a chef. But his substance addictions cost him his job, and he eventually found himself homeless. With nowhere else to turn, he found his way to The Salvation Army shelter in Shreveport, Louisiana.
There were some false starts and some struggles. He left for a time, still struggling with addiction, and eventually returned. “I told them that if they allowed me to come back, they would not have a problem with me. So, they give me a chance and I came back, went through the programs they had to offer. I volunteered, had a lot of counseling sessions with the Corps Officer. Eventually, I started working through the issues that I had,” says Larry.
It was a change that stuck with him, and it led to a life that was finally free of addictions. Today he is semi-retired but still speaks to the men in the shelter about the hope and change that he found at The Salvation Army. He shares his story with others, helping them find their own road to a new life. “I have 10 years of sobriety, thanks to The Salvation Army. I learned that I have to give back what was given to me. It’s just being clean and sober, life goes on. But how I deal with it all…with hope, I try to share that with others.”