The Road to Recovery Offers New Career and New Beginnings for Center of Hope Client
By: Cyrondys Jackson
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (April 12, 2022) – “There’s a stigma that comes with this, with being homeless. And once it gets cast over you, it’s hard to get rid of it.”
Michael Williams can easily remember working as an intern at a New Orleans television station and covering the stories of people experiencing homelessness on the streets of The Big Easy. “It’s ironic, but now I kind of take pride in it. It’s just where I am at in this stage in my life and one day I will be used as an advocate.”
Michael currently lives at The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope, in Birmingham, Alabama, and is one of many people working towards restoration. “When I first got here, I was in such a hurry to get in and get out and I was just facing so many things that it felt like there was no hope.”
Michael’s face always bears a smile, his voice is steady and projected, and his personality is full and welcoming. He never meets a stranger and does not forget a face.
Born and raised in Moss Point, Mississippi, Michael says he actively relives the traumas of his childhood. “I come from a bad, torn family. It’s like The Color Purple, Eve’s Bayou, and a Tyler Perry flick wrapped in one.” He says growing up, close members of his family were sexually abused by older relatives. There was violence between his mother and father. “My dad was a wife beater, too.” At some point, to escape the relentless beatings at the hands of his father, Michael’s mother stabbed her husband. “This has been on my mind a lot lately,” he said.
Then came the drug use.
Michael says he has struggled with substance abuse since 2005, often turning to drugs to numb the painful memories of his childhood, and the rejections of adulthood. “I did this starting out recreationally, but then that emotional, I guess doing it to numb pain, some kind of way worked its way in, and it was crazy. I am haunted by a lot of things that have happened.”
Michael has always dreamed of working in Broadcasting- from reporting breaking news and covering major sporting events, to dreams of working in entertainment news and covering red carpets. Michael says it was his aspirations of using his many artistic talents that led him to complete a degree in Journalism at Tulane University in New Orleans, and then work towards landing a job at a television news station.
“I interned in Mobile and New Orleans and covered the fast-paced news, made beat calls, and sat at the news desk,” said Michael. But despite the steps towards progress, Michael said there was difficulty overcoming what he called a “generational cycle.”
“I was the first male, college graduate on both sides of my family. But, there was always something happening, either good, bad, happy, or sad.”
Michael said dental issues affected his speech, and the ongoing surgeries to correct those issues, were too costly for his entry-level news salary. “I remember one news director telling me that if I got braces to correct it, and caused more speech problems, that I would have to be let go.”
Michael began to pursue a spiritual journey that he hoped would help him in recovery and life, but he yet again, was facing some of the same traumas of his past. In 2012, after stints at various jobs, and struggles to stay clean, Michael found himself with no place to call home, and sleeping in a tanning bed, inside the tanning room, at a local gym, where he had a membership. “That’s how I got by, and eventually the manager let me sleep in his office, and I eventually got two jobs and finally got an apartment.”
The shooting death of his nephew a few years ago, sent Michael down a long and isolated road of active addiction. That road led him to The Salvation Army, where Michael says he has been able to stay clean, one day at a time, and work with case managers to take tiny steps toward self-sufficiency. Most recently, Michael was extended an employment offer by Buffalo Rock Company during a hiring fair hosted by The Education and Workforce Development Center at The Center of Hope.
Michael, dressed in his uniform for another company, stood next to the hiring fair coordinator, Courtney Nolan, and smiled ear-to-ear after he accepted his offer. A moment he was initially worried about.
“That’s what I love about this job fair-it put me at ease. It took all the anxiety away of how are they going to treat me, are they gonna know that I’m homeless, are they going to have a feeling about me being homeless, are they going to treat me different?”
“The Salvation Army brought the employer to the employee, and I didn’t have that stigma. I’m just homeless for right now.” Michael says he and other candidates attending the fair were encouraged by the hiring managers on-site, who assisted job seekers with completing electronic applications, conducted interviews, and extending offers of employment. “They didn’t treat you like you were a problem, or they didn’t want to deal with you.”
“I remember applying for jobs and a lot of times I think they knew that I was homeless, and some jobs I didn’t’ get. These people were looking for workers, and they found them,” he said.
“I want to thank The Salvation Army for doing this, and I want to see more events like these to help the different people that come through the doors.”
” But I will restore you to health
and heal your wounds,’
declares the Lord”- Jeremiah 30:17 NIV