Arthur R. often joked to visitors of Earl’s Place, “You wouldn’t have wanted to have met me on the street before I came here,” and left it at that.
His drug addiction had taken full control of his life, he says. “I was engaging in animalistic behavior, living day-to-day to use.” If he wasn’t incarcerated, he stayed with whichever woman he was seeing. When she’d throw him out, he stayed in abandoned buildings.
He knew that if he was going to turn his life around, he was going to need help. After his second incarceration, Arthur says, “I knew I was done. I was too old for drugs. I was slowly losing everything I valued.” The rehabilitation and housing programs he turned to gave him the structure and information he needed to get clean, but they didn’t help him grow to rely on himself. He describes one of the programs as “a military-style setting,” where he had to be up at a set time each morning or face disciplinary action.
His first experience with entering into Earl’s Place told him that this approach would be different. “When I first got here, the case manager sat me down with the program manual and said, ‘This is a contract. When you sign it, you are telling me that you will follow the rules laid out here, and that you are willing to face the repercussions.’ I read it through, and I saw that it was fair, and I was ready to man up and face the consequences if I didn’t meet the expectations.”
It was affirming for him to sign an agreement that recognized that if he was going to support himself, he would need to take charge of his life. Arthur says that defining with the case manager what he wanted from his time at Earl’s Place reinforced that for him: “At Earl’s Place, you’re part of making your own direction. It’s your decision-making process.”
That empowering approach wasn’t something that was coming just from the program structure at Earl’s Place. The other residents played a huge role in showing Arthur what was possible through the program. “They were accomplishing a lot, but they told me, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be able to do it, too.’”
They were right. The Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services connected him with computer training at Goodwill, and his teacher was so impressed by his responsibility and work ethic that he recommended him for a position as a security guard there. They hired him for the full-time position, eventually he graduated from Earl’s Place, and moved into his own apartment.
“At Earl’s Place, I got a new beginning, a new purpose, and an extended family,” Arthur says. “People come in with one attitude, but leave a totally different person. That’s the transformation of being at Earl’s Place.” It’s a transformation that Arthur proudly bears witness to every day.
One of the most important things Earl D. says he found at Earl’s Place was a little less tangible: “Sheila [the executive director of Earl’s Place] and the others told me, ‘We see something in you, Earl, and you might not see it yourself.’ They believed in me, when I didn’t.” The faith they had in his abilities gave him the confidence he needed to achieve his goals.
That confidence was tested as he prepared to graduate from Earl’s Place. The prospect of living on his own meant taking on responsibilities he had little experience with previously. But thanks to the experiences he had at Earl’s Place, he rose to the occasion: “I got a job, paid my bills, and saved money.” He proudly describes himself as “a responsible, productive member of society.”
Though he left Earl’s Place to live on his own, he still often comes back to talk to residents, and to volunteer at events. It’s a way for him to help others who are going through the same things he did. “When I came here, I had nothing, so helping Earl’s Place is how I give back for what they did for me.”
A relative has been going through some tough times, and Earl is grateful for the experiences he’s had over the years. He’s able to share many of the lessons he learned while facing the same problems the relative now has before him. “God didn’t clean me up not to help nobody,” he says. “You need to share the things you learned while you were at Earl’s Place.” Clearly, Earl has learned a lot in his journey, and he’s passing it on.