Hope for the City
Written by Samuel Garcia
Last night we got a chance to hear the stories and learn a little more about life in CityTeam, Oakland. I learned that this place is not only a rehab/recovery center, but that it’s a homeless shelter as well! The recovering addicts who live here as residents are the ones who run this place. They are the cooks, the cleaners, the teachers, the bible study leaders, the janitors, etc. You would think that these people would have a hard time organizing themselves. Surprisingly, this place is a well-oiled machine. Everyone knows the duties and responsibilities entrusted to them, and they carry it out with pride. I guess this program not only focuses on helping get a band-aid over people’s problems, but also helps people get back on their feet with job skills and social skills they have lost along the way.
Yesterday we met a man named Jerry who’s a 62-year-old resident living here on the same floor as us. He has the far-too-typical story of having a life that has been wasted on drugs and street life. He’s gone through life in jail and in violence on the streets. He showed us 3 bullet holes in his stomach as evidence of a life filled with danger. He can barely speak because cancer has disrupted the functions of his throat. He has lost everything, including finances and family. Still, as one of the oldest residents, Jerry is proud to be making a change for the better, even if it does seem like he has wasted his life. He shared with us a sad tale of a life shattered with addictions, but he said that he felt as if God put him through those circumstances so that he could tell people like us to stay away from the drug world and all its empty promises.
We also met two middle-aged men named Steve and Dave who had very different stories than we hear of men suffering from drug addictions. These two were men who actually worked in education; one was a teacher, while another helped out in a school system around the Bay Area. Both are college graduates, held stable jobs at one point, but are now fighting the same battle as many other men at CityTeam. It just goes to show that no matter how smart you are, the grasp of drugs knows no bounds. We also hear that there’s a British chemistry professor in the program who’s also the House Manager. He graduated from Oxford. They call him “Professor” and I hear that he’s quite the character. I can’t wait to meet him!!
This morning we got to go to church with a bunch of the CityTeam residents at “The Way” in Berkeley, CA. Only once you get past your 30-day mark here do you get a chance to go to the church of your choice. In total, there are only 3 CityTeam churches in the city, 2 of which meet on Sundays. Only 6/24 residents came with us this morning. That means most people living here are not past their 30-day mark and are just beginning their rehab journey, in the hopes that in a year they will graduate and remain drug-free.