On May 23, 2013 Mayor Joe Riley was the featured speaker at the dedication of our newly renovated transitional housing property located directly behind the Mission on Nassau Street. This house was dedicated in honor of Dr. Guy Beatty and Dr. George Spaulding, two strong supporters of the Mission. Upon the completion of a seven month construction process by Palmetto Craftsmen, four former residents of the Mission moved into these beautifully furnished studio apartments that they can now call “home.” So that you will know the impact this move has made upon their lives, I’ve interviewed each of these men. The following is an account of their impressions on what it means to move from dormitory living into a place of their own.
How does living in your own studio apartment differ from living in a dormitory?
It’s just day and night. I don’t feel like I’m institutionalized anymore. I’m free to come and go as I please. I get to cook my own meals. I get to take a private shower. I live right around the corner from work. I absolutely love it!
Is it everything you hoped it would be?
It’s just right for one person, not too big, not too small.
What changes, if any, has living at 89 Nassau St. made in your life?
I’m a lot more relaxed. I can come in and sleep when I want to; I can go out and smoke a cigarette when I want to, it’s just very nice.
Tell me Chris, are you currently employed?
Yes sir. I work for Nelson Printing. I run a printing press. I’ve been doing this for 20 years now. My brother was a printer, and when I left my job at the Sheriff’s Dept., I was a Sergeant at the County Jail, he asked me if I wanted to learn to print and I said yes; that’s how I learned.
Do you believe that it’s providential that you’re here at the Star Gospel Mission? That is, do you believe that God had a hand in your being here?
Oh, yes sir! I believe He has a hand in everything.
I’ve noticed that you still come to church at the Mission every Sunday. Why is that?
Because I want to, and because I need it. Spiritually it strengthens me to be here, it helps carry me through the week. I pray all the time.
Any final comments you’d like to make about the Mission?
I’m just glad the Mission was here for me in my hour of need.
Are you currently employed and if so where and what do you do?
I work with IES Temporary Labor Services, I’m the president. We started in 2011 with three guys going out to work daily and today we have 65 going out every day. My goal is to have one IES in every major city in the country.
That’s a pretty ambitious goal!
It is, but I don’t think we can put a cap on what God is capable of doing. It won’t be because of us but because of what God is doing through us.
Do you believe it to be providential that you came to the Star Gospel Mission?
For me, I want to pursue the story that God’s written for me. I’m trying to listen to God’s voice and I hope it’s providential that I’m here because it’s where God wants me to be. My belief is that if I can help other people expe- rience the story that’s written for them, by doing that they’re going to have to learn more about their Author (God) and, in turn, themselves. Between where every person is and the place that God wants them to be is an en- counter with God. That’s part of the reason why we call it In Every Story, because we want people to be able to live out the story God has written for them.
Can you tell me your initial impression of what it was like moving into a brand new studio apartment of your own?
It’s great! I feel that if all the guys could get to the stage where they could move into a nice place like this it would be pretty special.
Describe what it’s like living here?
It’s got a lot of dignity, it’s nice, it’s clean, it’s wonderful, it’s brand new! For the guys that are trying to get ahead in life and work lower paying jobs with the skills they have, I’d be really happy if we could build enough of these places that all the men who are working at IES or living in the Mission’s dormitory could live in such a wonderful place.
So, how do you like your new home?
I love it! Although I also liked living in the dormitory because of the community and interacting with all the other guys. I’m trying to put myself, as much as possible, in the shoes of the guys that we’re trying to serve (at IES). If we can get our guys to live at a place like this then I’ll be really happy. So, philosophically speaking, I love the neighborhood, I love the community, I love this part of the city and I feel as though it’s our job to take care of it.
Any other comments your want to make about the Mission?
I’m excited to see the direction that the leadership is taking the Mission; the idea that they’re trying to create additional affordable transitional housing in Charleston.
What is it that brought you here to the Star Gospel in the first place?
What originally brought me here was that I was supposed to go back to Georgia and be with my wife, but at the last minute plans changed and it left me without a roof over my head. I had to hurry and check around to find some place to live and that’s when I found out about this place.
While you were here you were attending school, is that correct?
Yes, it was an online school. I graduated in December of 2012.
Are you currently employed and if so where?
At SC works Charleston. I was a program assistant but that was a temporary position that just ended. I’m currently looking to get back into school and begin working on my Master’s of Business Administration degree. I’m looking at online schools mainly, but I’m also looking into The College of Charleston and The Citadel.
When you moved from the Mission to the Nassau Street house, what were your initial impressions?
It was great! It’s my own private place, so I love it! Being able to spread out a little bit and have my own privacy, everybody needs their own private space, and I’d been at the Mis- sion roughly three years at the time I left so it was time.
Are you comfortable there?
Yes, very comfortable and I love the peace and quiet and tranquility.
What changes has living at 89 Nassau made in your life?
I get to cook again, which is one of the things I’ve always enjoyed doing. And my rest seems to be much more peaceful. I also like not having a curfew, so if there’s something on TV that I want to finish watching, I don’t have to worry about keeping anyone else up.
Do you believe that it was a part of God’s plan for your life to come to the Mission?
I already had a personal relationship with the Lord before I came to the Mission, I was already saved. It was either here or at Salvation Army where I’d stayed before but there was just something about the Mission that pulled me in that direction instead. It was downtown, it was convenient to everything, so I thought I’d give it a try.
Are there any other comments you’d like to make about SGM?
Just that I think it’s a really good place for men to be. It’s a place where they can get the Word of God in them and, once they do, you can see a real difference, a real change in their lives.
What was it that precipitated your move to the SGM?
I’d gotten tired of being sick and tired. I was sleeping outside and I finally figured out how to get enough money together so that I could stay at some place decent rather than the shelter or living under a bridge.
When was that?
That was in May of 2009.
Where are you currently employed and what do you do?
I am currently employed as the day manager at the Star Gospel Mission. I’m responsible for cleaning and maintaining the physical plant and providing the meals that are served. I assist with personal issues that arise and also insure that the rules and regulations of the Mission are adhered to by the residents.
Could you tell me your initial impressions of what it was like to move from the Mission into your newly furnished studio apartment?
It was the best gift I’ve ever been given, because I was given the gift of privacy! With my history that is a very valuable thing.
What do you mean by privacy?
I spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy. I spent 15 years of that under water on a submarine where there was no privacy whatsoever. What’s more, it’s a beautiful building, it’s well appointed, I don’t even hear my neighbors.
So how do you like your new home?
It’s great, absolutely great!
Have there been any significant changes in your life since you moved there?
The biggest change is that I am no longer 24/7 on duty. It was not un- common for me to be woken up in the middle of the night because of some antic that was going on in the Mis- sion, or having people needing to talk to me, or answering the phone at all hours. Now when my day ends I get to go home.
Do you find that home a very peaceful relaxed environment?
Oh, it is laid back, it’s a stress free zone.
Do you believe that, in any way, it was providential for you to come here to the Mission?
I don’t believe in fate, I don’t believe in providence, but every time something good happens to me I say thank-you to God. My attitude is: if but for there I go I would not have been, and had I not been there, I would not have received.
Are there any additional comments you’d like to make about the Mission?
For years I was going through life without a purpose; I now have that purpose again, be it as small as it is, it is still a purpose, and that is enough.