The Long Walk Home
When his father passed away unexpectedly in April of 2017, Carl found himself homeless and in dire need of help.
After four months in an apartment his mother helped provide, Carl finally succumbed to a lengthy grieving process antagonized by a host of unknown mental illnesses. One afternoon he simply walked out the door and never returned.
“At the time I didn’t know what was good for me,” he recalled. “I had no socks or shoes on. I just had shorts, a shirt and my ID.”
He set out on foot from Carbon Hill, Alabama, toward Winfield and after trekking the 18 miles barefoot in the October heat, Carl felt his vision fade and his body go numb. The next thing he recalls is waking up in an emergency room.
“Some people found me on the side of the road and called an ambulance,” Carl said. “They took x-rays and I had IV’s in me. I also spoke with a psychiatrist who asked if I wanted some help. I told her, ‘Sure, I’ll take it.’”
Just a few hours later Carl was in another ambulance on his way to a mental health facility in Columbus, Mississippi. After a week of group theory he was transferred by taxi to Tuscaloosa.
A complication in the admission process, however, again left him alone and on the street. After several hours of walking Carl felt the heat affecting his system and this time didn’t wait for a good Samaritan to phone an ambulance, he did so himself.
“Right around Christmas time some friends let me stay in their little shed,” he said. “It was getting real cold. I had no food, no place to shower, no electricity. I was just sleeping in there.”
Those friends also called The Jimmie Hale Mission and asked Carl if he wanted to go.
“The night before that I had prayed for a place to lay my head down, that would be warm, that I’d have some food and could bathe,” he said. “I spent the whole weekend here and on Monday I started the program.”
An invaluable part of his experience in the program took place at the learning center. To successfully complete the first phase, individuals must finish the Ready to Work curriculum, prepare their resume, submit a non-official job application for staff review, conduct a mock interview and acquire a valid form of government identification should they need it.
In addition to the thorough requirements, Carl found lessons on email accounts and online banking particularly helpful. “The computer learning was all new to me,” he said. “Computers weren’t new, but learning math and English on them was new.”
Carl has successfully completed the courses at the learning center and is now working on his GED three days a week at the Literacy Council.
“He’s an exemplary client,” said learning center administrator Charles Williams, Jr., when reflecting on Carl’s progress. “He struggled at first with the computer learning, but he stuck with it. He was focused and committed to the program. He continues to improve and has found gainful employment.”
“God has blessed me in ways I didn’t think were possible,” Carl said proudly. “I’ve now been here seven months, I have a part-time job with the Mission, I attend a church and I’m working on my GED.”