John has soft

eyes and a smooth voice. He's studying to become a minister, and his mannerisms and presence would put any delegation at ease. John

has been homeless for close to four years, but his faith is steadfast. He wore

faded jeans and a thick flannel shirt.

When we sat

down to talk, he comfortably slumped himself in a chair, crossed one leg over

the other and had no reservations about discussing his life.

NUVO: How long have you been coming to

Horizon House?

John: Off and on for about four years.

NUVO: When did you first hear about it?

John: Once I became homeless. I was staying

at the time with a mission on Pennsylvania. They get you up at 5 in the morning

and put you out at 6.

NUVO: Do you still stay there?

John: No, I've got my own little spot.

NUVO: Tell me your story. Why are you


John: Basically I'm grown. I do have family

in town, but I'm grown. I've got to do this on my own. I gave up my house. I

had an apartment for a year and a half. It was through a program called

Partners in Housing, their Shelter Plus Program. I lost that because I

couldn't make a meeting.

NUVO: Because you couldn't make a meeting?

When was that?

John: That was

last year. I went and visited a girl. I lived on the third floor; she lived on

the first floor. Someone told that I went and visited her. Turns out that she

was still getting high and turning tricks. So, they did an intervention on me

and told me I had to do 90 meetings in 90 days. I did that. Then they said I

had to do two meetings a week for 90 days. Then they told me I had to come to a

well-living class. At the time I was working. Paying rent. Rent was caught up.

I was barely staying there. I had a girlfriend who had a doctorate's degree.

Drove a Lexus (laughs). They kind of was like, "Well, why are you still keeping

the apartment if you don't need to be here." Well, she can't stay here and I

can stay at her apartment with no hassles, so we could be together. Then, I

broke up with her and started dating one of the waitresses at work, where I

worked, and she lived in Noblesville. So, I would stay at her house. What we

were using the apartment for was if we had split shifts or worked different

times, we would come back to Indianapolis and we had it OKed with the apartment

manager that she could use my key and come and stay because it didn't make

sense to drop me off at work and come all the way back to Noblesville and in a

couple hours have to drive back to go to work and then I got to go back to

Noblesville and then come back and pick her up (laughs). I mean, we did it for

a while, but we were just wasting too much gas. I asked to move into her

apartment, and she agreed to it 'cause my rent was always paid, my apartment was

always clean, and, as a matter of fact, they used it as one of the model

apartments. If somebody through the program had to see an apartment, they could

take 'em to mine. They pretty much knew I wasn't gonna be there and it was

always gonna be clean. I never left dishes or anything like that.

But, back to

the meeting. The meeting was only held on a Wednesday – from one o'clock

'til two o'clock on a Wednesday. How can you teach me to live well when I got

my apartment clean, I stay clean and, you know, my rent is paid? My rent was

never late. But the meeting was from one until two in the afternoon and that's

the only day they had it, which was a day I was scheduled to work. They'd

already cut my hours at work. I couldn't go to the bosses and say, "Hey, man. I

gotta go to this meeting." But, their attitude was, "We're paying your rent and

even if you're not working, we could pay your full amount on it. So, you need

to go to this meeting." And that's when I got put out.

NUVO: And that's what why you're in the

situation you're in now?

John: Back being homeless again ...


NUVO: How does it feel to be in the situation

you're in?

John: (long pause) I feel God. I mean, it's

not about being homeless; it's not about being lost and alone. I mean, Jesus

was born in a manger. Jesus never really had a home when he started his

ministering. He lived from place to place. Not saying that I'm Jesus or

anything, but it has prepared me for the role he's placed me in.

I work as a

lay-minister for my church. I'm also the minister of media. I'm working toward

my degree to become ordained as a minister. But, without living the process of what

a homeless person is going through, without being jailed and not knowing what

Marion County jail is, without doing the six-month stint in prison, how would I

know how to minister or help someone unless I've actually walked in their

shoes? I have compassion for them, but I also will not tolerate someone just

being totally lazy on what they're doing. Through the times that I've been in

and out of this situation, because I always find a job. I'm always working. I'm

a superintendent of a construction company right now. But, it's not bringing in

a lot of money. I mean, it keeps me in what I need. It keeps my hygiene. It

keeps, you know, food, when I don't have food stamps. It keeps my storage

compartment paid for every month. I mean, I have to allocate the money. It

keeps me with a home, you know.

NUVO: It's not enough to get your own place

or anything?

John: No, I mean, times are rough. There. You

take what's rough. Like my mother always says, "If you got a bunch of lemons,

you make lemonade." But, I got enough to make lemonade and even got enough to

put a little sugar in it (laughs). So, it's not always bitter. But, there's

times where you think things are going to happen or a situation might be

different. It prepares me to know how to minister to someone. God never takes

you through something that he can't get you out of. Right now, I have some

other apartments. Just waiting for them to finish building them. Hopefully, I

can move into those by February. I don't know.

NUVO: So, has your faith ever been shaken by

some of the situations you've been in?

John: It's only been strengthened because

without my faith, I would be helpless. Knowing and trusting. Some of the

problems I believe are from when my faith became shaken. "OK, this ain't

happenin', that ain't happenin', where you at, God?" You know? It's like, "OK.

You want to question me as to what I'm doing? Let me show you what you can do."

I mean, like I say, prison was only for six months, but, it taught me a lot in

six months' time. I wasn't in a maximum prison, but I saw some things, like,

that would just trip you out. I like being on the streets. So, yeah that's

basically it.

NUVO: Do you think enough is being done for

the homeless population in Indianapolis?

John: No, it's not.

NUVO: What else do you think could be done?

John: I mean, there's plenty of empty

buildings around. There's plenty of empty homes around. There's plenty of

abandoned homes around that the city owns that they're ready to tear down that

they don't even take the initiative to tear down. Homeless people, drug addicts

use these buildings to get high, to stay out of the weather, everything else.

Why not start a program - like I said, I'm the superintendent of a construction

company - why not start a program to rehab these houses? Teach the people a

trade. You got a complete house. Let them stay in the house while they're

working on the house. When the house is completed, they gotta move to the next

house. But, like the Bible says, "If you teach a man to fish, he can eat for

life. If you give a man a fish, he can only eat for that day." So, the ones that really want to break this cycle and want to get out, they

will take the training, they will do the work and they will get out. After you

rehab so many houses, maybe one of the houses can become yours or you know,

you have to share with three or

four people. But, it sets a precedence and an attitude of a work ethic. One of

the shelters, Good News Missions, says they charge people with a work ethic. If

you don't have money to stay there, you have to do work for them so you can

stay there and eat. But, they have you doing menial jobs. Cleaning up around

the place. Cleaning up and down the streets of Rural all the way to New York

Street. Pick up all the trash. Clean up around the Pizza Hut and stuff like

that. I mean that's not teaching anybody anything. When we don't have anything

else for you to do, wipe the walls down. One year, I was there and we had wiped

the walls so much that we had to go back and paint the walls because we actually

rubbed some paint off. I mean, wipe the pews down four or five times a day.

They already been wiped once, but they want you to do it again. Just something

to keep you busy and something to keep you doing something. That's not teaching

a man anything.

The city could benefit from the rehab program and that's

actually a program that I'm going to be looking to get off the ground in my

ministry. Where we can go in and get some of these houses that are up for tax

liens and get them donated to the church where we take responsibility for

them. Start a training program where one set of guys learn demolition and

another set of guys electricity or electrical by doing the wiring. Another set

of guys does the drywall and another set of guys do paint. Now, once I get

these crews set, now I'm able to move them on to different houses. While the

electricians are doing this house, the demolition crew is demo-ing another

house. While the drywallers come in and start drywalling, the electricians move

to the next house that's demo-ed. So on and so forth. You steadily keep it

running. I walk some of these streets and you can walk down the streets and

there's eight to ten boarded house in a block.

NUVO: I see

those all the time where I live. There are all sorts of abandoned houses just

sitting there. Nothing's being done.

John: Why doesn't

the city back us and let's get something done. Let's improve the look of our


NUVO: It's a win-win situation for everybody.


NUVO: Did Horizon House help you find the jobs that you've had?

John: That's all on my own. Horizon House, I

mean, I'm not downing them, it's a great place be able to shower. They're

beneficial. For me, it's a place to shower. It's a place to do a little bit of

laundry. My whole goal is, if I'm homeless, I don't want to look like it, act

like it, or smell like it. I mean, you see me sitting here. If you saw me on

the street, you would never believe that I'm homeless. I do have an education

underneath my belt, so I'm not going to talk stupid either. I mean, it's all

what you make it, all of what you want it to be.

NUVO: Besides renovating all these abandoned

houses, what else needs to be done?

John: (Long pause) You need to weed out the

ones that are making a career out of being homeless to the ones that are just

traveling through being homeless. I consider myself a traveler of being through

homeless, or being homeless.

NUVO: Meaning you're making strides toward

ending your homelessness?

John: Yeah. I mean, you have to. I can't see

this in-and-out type of situation.

NUVO: You've been homeless for how long?

John: Right now it's going on about a year. I

think it'll be a year in March. But, like I said, I could go to friends'

houses, but I choose not to.

NUVO: Why don't you choose to?

John: I'm a grown man (laughs). I gotta pull

myself up by my own bootstraps as they say. I cannot get comfortable by staying

with someone else or living off of someone else. I have to strive and live for

myself. First of all, I live for God. By the strength that God gives me, I can

live on my own. I can live basically where I'm staying. I've

been blessed with it. I am paying for it, a little bit of money. And it does

entitle me to... it has a light socket where the light comes on at a certain time

of night. I put a screw-in pull switch on it. I can plug in an electric

blanket. I can recharge my phone there. So, at night I got a thermal sleeping

bag. I have an electric blanket that I can turn on. I have another thermal

sleeping bag, so when it drops to zero I can put that in and turn that on.

Right now, with even the cold weather that we've had right now, I've never

turned it above four.

NUVO: So you stay warm?

John: Oh, it'll make you sweat. I tried it on

a cold night. I had it on nine and I woke up pouring down in sweat and it was

like, "Man!" And I haven't even put the other sleeping bag in there. So, I know

God has blessed me that I'll be able to stay warm throughout, no matter how

cold it gets. Now, getting up in the morning, getting dressed (laughs), it's

gonna be a different story. I mean I've even thought about getting one of the

little under-the-desk heaters and just plug that in just to take the chill out

of the air of the space that I have. But, I'm not trying to run up the electric

bill of the place that I'm at. They know I'm there and they've been through

being homeless before themselves and it's like, "You don't bring no drama to

us, you stay under the radar, we don't have any problem with you staying in

here." So, like I said, I've been blessed at being homeless.


NUVO: What's a day in your life like?

John: A day in my life is, I get up between 6

and 7:30. Go get me a bite to eat. Usually, - I build decks and fences –

we go out and work. We'll work from daylight to dark. Come back, get another

little bite to eat and go lay down for the night. Sometimes, I usually will go

a day or so, no more than two days, without a shower. But, come down here

(Horizon House) first thing in the morning, 7 o'clock. Get me a shower. Take

care of some laundry I need to do. Do a little bit of laundry. Take that back

and go to work.

NUVO: The economy's tanked now and a

lot of money has been cut from places like Horizon House. Have you noticed any

cuts in staff, cuts in hours?

John: I've seen the cuts, but like I said,

I'm not trying to live off of them. The ones that is hurting is the ones trying

to live off of them. If you don't want to be homeless, you don't have to be

homeless. Some people make it a choice to be homeless. They want to go out and

panhandle. I mean, it's just like the guys sitting on the corner for nine, ten

hours holding up a sign, "I'm not gonna lie, it's for beer," or "I'm homeless.

Can you help?" Or you see them standing at the exits of the interstate. I mean,

come on, if you can hold a sign and stand there that long, you can at least go

find a job (laughs). I'd rather work. The Bible says if a man doesn't work, he shouldn't eat. Holding a sign is

not considered working to me. I want to be a productive citizen.


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