I started in 1978 as a waiter, and was an in-store trainer, training in-coming staff. Corporate restaurants are a great way to get experience. In the 1980s, I worked at free-standing restaurants and decided to make it a career. I lost my wife in 1994. I was with the same woman from the time I was 14 until I was 34. She died of cancer. I adapted to that. From 1994-1997, I was a functional addict. I went to work every day but was addicted so I sought help. I looked at my life and woke up one day and looked in the mirror and the mirror looked back at me and said “get up, get up off the ground.”
I’m 51 years old and I entered the shelter across the street on July 18th of this year. At that time, I had nothing—no ID, no birth certificate, nothing. I went into that shelter with one pair of shoes, 2 shirts, and one pair of pants. Living in a shelter is a 24-hour a day stressful environment. I didn’t let that bother me. I used that opportunity as a chance to turn my life around. I passed out flyers to earn money so I could go to the thrift store and buy a new wardrobe.
I went through the Inspiration Corporation’s Employment Program. I was never late for any session; I had perfect attendance. I was still living in the shelter and was volunteering where single men sleep–at the gym in the church. I got promoted to the 4th floor at the building for single men over 50. You can’t stay there unless you earn it. When the Independent Living Program grant was given to them from the Chicago Dept. of Health and Social Services, they chose 50 people who they thought would make it and get a job. Out of 50 who were selected to apply, I was one of the 3 who made it. So, I am currently residing at the YMCA in Lakeview. I must check in once a month personally, and once a week by phone but I went in once a week. They pay my rent for 4 mos. so I have to get a job by February 24th.
I waited tables for over 20 years. I’m fluent in Vietnamese and a number of other languages. I have been trying to get a job. I must be employed by February 24th since that’s when my housing allowance runs out. I’ve been looking since September. I would like to work in the food services industry if possible, but am willing to do anything if necessary.
I’m a different person than I was in the ‘80s and the ‘90s. I was young, stupid and an addict. I’m not the same person that I was. Sometimes you need a second chance and I’m ready to grab it now.
Funded on 1/26/2012