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Faces of Homelessness: Couple hoping for new start

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Editor's note: This is the second story in a series about people who live or have lived at the A-Way Home Shelter in Greencastle.

Mike Venable can't remember a time in all his 28 years when he was in one home for very long.

That transience, coupled with anger management issues and bouts with drug abuse, have led to him being a resident at Greencastle's A-Way Home shelter on and off for the last decade.

From the ages of 11 to 18, Mike was in and out of facilities for troubled teens. He said his mother was "a good person," but that she didn't have the knowledge or resources to help him. He didn't meet his father until he was an adult.

"I had anger problems," Mike, a big man with deep eyes and a shock of curly, blue-black hair said. "I just got lost in the system. When I was 18, they let me go -- with no job skills and no education."

Mike's grandparents, who lived far out in the country outside of Greencastle, took him in and took care of him the best they could. At the age of 18, Mike ended up in A-Way Home for the first time.

"Then I decided to join the carnival, and I was with it for a year," he said. "I traveled from Crystal Lake, Ill. to Miami. "To make a long story short, I was very stupid and got caught up in drugs."

After a year with the carnival, Mike quit. Fed up with shoddy living conditions, he called his mother and she, his aunt and uncle came to get him and bring him home. He stopped doing drugs and moved into a trailer on his grandparents' property.

"I stayed there for a couple of months, but I ended up coming back to the shelter," he said.

Mike stayed at the shelter long enough to get a factory job through a temporary service. He moved into an apartment with a friend for a short time and then in 2000 moved into a trailer with his mother in Avon.

When his stint at the factory ended, he got a job at McDonald's -- and held it for four years.

For the first time in his life, Mike had some stability.

Until a flood in May 2004 destroyed the trailer he and his mother were living in.

Mike's mother moved in with some friends. She gave Mike money from the insurance benefit she received from the loss and her trailer, and he bought a trailer of his own.

"I stayed there for a while," he said. "Then I got back into drugs, got all stupid and let a bunch of friends move in."

Mike left his trailer and went back to his grandparents' place. He moved in with a couple he was friends with and got a job at a factory in Plainfield.

"The guy was my ride to work," he said. "One day, he and his wife just split up -- it was a split-second thing. He told me they were leaving and I had to leave, too."

Mike moved back in with his mother, who was renting a home. His mother's landlord found out Mike was staying there, and Mike was homeless again.

"So here I am today," he said with a heavy sigh.

Mike got a job at Gas America a little over a month ago. He works from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

"I want to get an apartment," he said. "It's not easy to save money, though. I only make $7.25 an hour, and 30 percent of my paycheck goes here (to the shelter). That's OK, though. I'm not complaining about that. I should pay to live here. I don't want to be a bum."

Mike has a knack for cooking.

"I learned from my great-grandmother," he said proudly.

Mike would like to get a job as a cook, but said the restaurants he has inquired at all "want someone with culinary training."

"I'd really like to open my own delicatessen and meat shop someday," he said thoughtfully.

This go-around at A-Way Home has yielded something positive for Mike.

"I have fallen in love," he said with a smile.

Mike's new significant other is Jody Sexton, who came to A-Way Home from Indianapolis in late May after her baby's father deserted her and their 4-year-old daughter.

She was cleaning offices for a family member of her boyfriend, so when he left, her job went with him.

"I lived with a friend in Indianapolis for a while, but then I found out she was abusing my daughter," said Jody, a tiny woman with long dark hair and dark eyes.

Jody, who grew up in the Cloverdale area, returned home at that point. Her father and stepmother live in an apartment and couldn't offer her a place to live (her mother died several years ago), and her two brothers were also unable to help her out.

Jody made arrangements for her daughter to stay with a friend, and made the difficult decision to take up residence at the shelter while she determined what her next move toward getting on her feet would be.

"I was really, really scared," she said. "But everyone here is nice; everyone is respectful. I love being here temporarily."

Jody, who suffers from social anxiety disorder, has had trouble finding employment.

She has worked in housekeeping, laundry, hospice and fast food, and said she would gladly accept a job in any of those fields.

"I've been turning in applications left and right," she said sadly. "I probably turn in five a week. No one's calling me back."

Jody also spends much time at the Putnam County Courthouse, doing what is required so her daughter's father will have to pay child support.

She plans on pursuing her General Equivalency Diploma as soon as her life is a little more settled, and would like to go on to college.

"I've thought about psychology," she said. "I've also considered accounting, or maybe going to veterinary school. I like working with animals."

Mike would like people to know that he, Jody and the others at A-Way Home are just regular people who have hit rough spots.

"Everybody here is a normal person," he said. "The people I see here in town a lot of them are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. They're one step away from being where we are right now."

Mike and Jody left the shelter on Monday. They moved into a friend's home together. Mike is still working at Gas America. Despite her efforts, Jody has not found a job yet.

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What a sad story. I wish I had a job to offer them! Best of luck to you both!!!

-- Posted by sassypants on Wed, Jun 18, 2008, at 7:14 PM

Good luck to both of you. You admitted to having problems and are working towards a positive goal. I am pleased to see there are people not using excuses in this article.

-- Posted by pbyers on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 7:31 PM


-- Posted by TNVOLTUT on Wed, Jun 25, 2008, at 7:25 PM

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