Falling into homelessness means more than losing one’s belongings and a place to live. It can lead to a loss of self-confidence and hope for a better life.
That’s why Freedom House provides far more than food and shelter. We address the issues that led to homelessness – addictions, poor work histories/job skills, mental health problems and legal issues – and provide people with the power to change.
Hear real stories from those we’ve helped.
Theo Woodson’s story
Theo Woodson has been Program Director for The Conrad Center for nearly five years. Each day he stands behind the serving line, managing a staff of four and countless volunteers that prepare and serve more than 250 meals each day.
Thirteen years ago Theo was involved with the program, but not as an employee. He was on the other side of the serving line as a guest. He relied on The Meals Program, its original name, for most of his meals because of his substance abuse.
At his worst, Theo was living under the bridge near the old location of The Meals Program at 302 West Canal Street. As the weather turned colder, he started volunteering for the program as a way to avoid the harsh weather. At about the same time, a regular volunteer, Charley Conrad, from Southminster Presbyterian Church took an interest in Theo and asked him what his name was. “Squirrel” he replied, telling Mr. Conrad the name he was known by on the street. Mr. Conrad asked for his birth given name and from that day on would not let anyone call him anything other than Theo in his presence.
This one gesture had a profound effect on Theo. He realized that if this gentleman had enough respect for him to ask his real name, then maybe he should show the same respect for himself. It was the first step in his recovery.
Today, Theo is in his 13th year of recovery. In 2004, he voted for the first time after having his rights restored. During the past twelve years, he has reunited with his grown children and been involved in their lives. His proudest moment came when his youngest child graduated from the University of Virginia.
We lost Charley Conrad to cancer in 2002, but his spirit and willingness to help others is carried on by his wife, Jane. Mrs. Conrad continues to volunteer at The Conrad Center with her church group and serves on the Freedom House Board of Directors. Theo Woodson also carries Mr. Conrad’s spirit everyday by helping others overcome the crisis of homelessness and addiction through his work at Freedom House.
Charley Conrad had a profound effect on Theo’s future that began with a simple act of respect. Theo practices this approach everyday with others that are in crisis. He is proof that someone can go from living under a bridge to helping others build bridges.
I am very grateful for you housing me and giving me the opportunity to get my life back on track after being homeless for a while and helping me to start my life over again. I wasted so many years of my youth and adult life using drugs and getting into trouble with the law. After burning so many bridges over the years, I lost touch with family values and I became sick, was hospitalized and almost lost my life. I realized if I wanted to live I had to do something different in order to save my life. I renewed my relationship with my family and went into a shelter (CARITAS). From there I entered a program at the Daily Planet called Project Strive. I was given the opportunity to work an internship which has opened up many doors of opportunities for me such as a career in their Medical Respite program.
Your doors were opened to me so I could continue my internship and find housing and for that I am so grateful. After being with you all for a year it was time for me to move on. I must admit, I was happy and sad at the same time, but for good reasons. I had come to know some real nice people in the Freedom House and I will have some real fond memories as another chapter of my life begins.
God place me in the care of all of you people and you gave my life structure and stability. I have a brighter future ahead of me because you helped me find a better way to live my life on life’s terms and to continue to live one day at a time.
My family knew. My co-workers knew. I, however, accepted the illusion of my growing addiction. That is, relying on prescription pain medication, each month for three years. I was superman for 10 days consuming upwards of 210 pills during that time and in the Hollywood Cemetery for the following 20 days with no pills. Thirty-six continuous months of feeling high, sick, low: repeat high, sick, low. Repeat. Nothing about this arrangement made sense to anyone except me. Such is the life of having an illness without a cure and getting sucker punched by the very medicine that provides relief……….Then my life took a profound detour.
My family, with their deepest love, let me go. After years of abuse of prescription pain pills, an accidental overdose landed me in the hospital. After short stays at other programs, I landed at The Freedom House. Starting off scared and weak from withdrawal, I began to find myself. I have learned about my addictive behavior which in turn has allowed me to become actively involved with my recovery. I believe as long as I trust my future, I will honor my recovery.
I am happy to add that my family grew supportive as my fog lifted; and today their love is all smiles. I know recovery is a team effort, and I will be forever grateful to my family, my co-workers and the residents and professional staff at the “house of freedom” The Freedom House.
I came from the Salvation Army shelter and really wanted to move to the Home Again shelter, but God was doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. I am typically a lazy person and had only been clean and sober for two months and thought that if I got into Home Again I wouldn’t have to work on myself.
Coming to Freedom House has made a significant change in my life as it has pushed me to do better. Not only am I an alcoholic, but I suffer from Bi-Polar Disorder and depression. One of the requirements to live here was for me to seek counseling to address those issues. I am now an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous and take my recovery seriously as well as putting in the work on my mental state.
The staff here has been very supportive to the point of feeling like my family. My case manager is tough at times, but her desire is to only help me better myself. The counselor who comes to see me has been a life saver because I can talk to her honestly and about anything. At one point during my stay at Freedom House I had to spend 90 days in jail for a past consequence and the case managers made sure that I had a place to call home when I was released. As I struggled to find employment they kept reassuring me that I would have a place to stay.
I thank God everyday for the Freedom House. They helped me move forward in life and if I had not come here, I truly feel I would not have my daughter in my life nor have 19 months of sobriety and the lifelong friends I have met. My self esteem is higher than ever, which has allowed me to complete an 11 week training course for the Ukrop’s 10K….which I finished.
Thanks to Freedom House for opening its doors to me, you have truly given me the freedom to change!