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Alan, from “Me” to “We”

Huffington Post Blog by Jean Michel Giraud

A leading voice in the effort to combat homelessness with innovative solutions, Jean Michel has been been a contributor for the Huffington Post for since 2012.  


“At Friendship Place, I had to get from “me” to “we.””

This is how Alan describes the change in his own outlook as he became better and better at helping others while volunteering at Friendship Place. Shifting from his own issues to helping other people was cathartic.

This is a powerful statement from somebody who has done a lot of rebuilding of his own.

Alan has had so many roles at Friendship Place that it took me a while to remember all of them…at least in the right order.

The first I heard about him was in a report from our veterans’ advocate. It went something like: “I’m trying to help a vet…and I’m hearing from somebody in an advocacy group that we’ll never get him in.”

We decided to try anyway.

What followed is history now. Our Neighbors First staff met Alan on a Monday and he moved into his apartment that Friday. Alan likes mentioning this when he speaks. He feels that it captures the way Friendship Place works.

I’m just glad we got him in at all.

Alan served on a missile site in North Dakota for four years and protected two US Presidents for Federal Protective Services. He remembers a middle-class lifestyle, a wife, two children. There was a prized boat that gave the kid who grew up in Southeast DC a sense of comfort and, even, accomplishment.

But then, there was depression—the kind that does not warn you and shows up one day when you just can’t get out of bed. Then some better days and the darkness, again. Alan managed through the cycles but when his father died, he took to his bed, again, and the job was gone.

He rebuilt a first time and things were starting to look up, although not all the way up to where they had been. But that was fine. He was thankful for what he had now.

When he got shot and mugged in the hallway of his apartment building, everything went again, the new job, the apartment. Alan found himself on the street for a second time looking for food, fearing rodents while he slept.

Looking back on the hard times Alan remembers: “There was a time I thought I would die homeless.”

Alan came out of homelessness with a heightened perception of things and the added strength of people who have been there. He wears six crosses around his neck, “one for each time God saved me.”

See this post at www.huffingtonpost.com.

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