Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- Kevin Turner's once stable and predictable life was about to change dramatically.
In 2005, Turner said, his wife had brain surgery for an aneurysm. It was a long surgery, seven hours, but she made a full recovery. She was in perfect health - apparently.
However, on June 21 2006, Turner said his wife passed away from an apparent heart attack.
Turner said, "I remember thinking, 'How can this happen? She was just at the doctor's office and she was fine."
That's when, Turner recalled, his world fell apart.
He became extremely depressed and angry and bitter towards God.
He recalled thinking, "To hell with it. I don't want to live. I even contemplated suicide. It was 17 years with her, and my life was jerked out from under me."
With the anger and depression eating at him, he left the home he had shared with his wife, and began living out of his Jeep.
Around his birthday, August 2008, Turner said he got tired of the way he was living, and decided he would take the first job offered to him, no matter where it was.
A position in Albuquerque New Mexico became available, driving locally.
Turner said, "I didn't have anything left for me in Florida, so I figured I'd venture out a bit. (After all), I was supposed to have a job waiting for me."
Turner sold his Jeep and everything else, and bought a plane ticket to Albuquerque. All he had with him was what he could carry on the plane. Kevin arrived in New Mexico and moved into a studio room in 2008 with the meager funds he'd been able to gather.
He said, "I had about $800.00 with me, which didn't last long."
Turner said when he arrived at the job site, he found the company had been seized by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Not really having anything to go back to in Florida, and not being exactly flush with cash, he decided to stay in Albuquerque.
He recalled, somewhat caustically, "My life felt like it had turned into a B-grade movie."
He worked out of a labor pool until he got a job with a local security company, which stationed him at a variety of locations around the city. He was able to save some money and move into a different apartment.
However, Turner said, the security company lost all its government contracts and he was laid off. It was time to look for work again. Jobs weren't forthcoming, and Turner's savings didn't last long.
Turner said he applied for unemployment, which took about ten weeks to reach him. Turner said the apartment manager had agreed to let him stay for a while, knowing that money was coming in. Unfortunately, after two months the manager decided that it was time for him to move.
Now homeless and unemployed, Turner said he stayed in a local park for a couple of weeks. It was winter, and cold.
During the day, he said, he would panhandle, pick up cans, wander around, and look for jobs. Picking up cans and panhandling was how he managed to eke out money for food.
During this time period, Turner said, his unemployment benefits kicked in, and he was able to move into a local motel served by Joy Junction's Lifeline of Hope outreach.
Turner said, "I saw the truck come in, and a whole bunch of people hanging around it. I was told they would feed me. So I went over there, and got a few bags of lunches and drinks. (The driver) talked to me about Joy Junction."
He added, "Of course, I was hard headed then, and I didn't want to come to Joy Junction."
Every time the Lifeline came by, Turner was there. He had received his unemployment, which was basically taking care of the room. He had not received his EBT card (food stamps), so he was relying on the Lifeline of Hope for all his food.
He was always looking for a job. He said, "I even offered to work for Joy Junction, if they were hiring. I was desperate."
After about two weeks of depending on the Lifeline of Hope for food, Turner said his unemployment benefits ran out.
He said, "That meant the room over my head was going to be gone. I talked to (the Lifeline driver), and she reminded me that Joy Junction is always able to help."
Turner said he called Joy Junction's main office and talked to a receptionist to get more information. From what he heard, though a bit apprehensive, he saw no other choice.
Turner said, "I actually borrowed a dollar from the hotel to catch a city bus to get to the Greyhound station, where Joy Junction picks up."
He said, When I got here, it looked like an institution ... I was scared and didn't know what I was getting into."
However, his fears diminished as he met Joy Junction staff. He was able to eat, had a tour of the campus, and signed in for the evening.
Shortly after arriving, due to an upper respiratory infection, Turner went to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where he was admitted for five days.
In the interim, Turner said, his on again off again unemployment restarted. He returned back to the motel where he had been staying, and was there for about 13 weeks.
The money ran out again. Turner returned to Joy Junction for the second time.
Three days after arriving, Turner joined Joy Junction's Christ in Power Program (CIPP). The nine month program, based on Tyndale House's Life Recovery Bible, is one of the many services Joy Junction offers.
He said, "On June 16 I came back to Joy Junction, with the sole purpose of using the program for what I believed it was designed to be for. To help me off the streets, help me get back on my feet, and provide a lifestyle without having to worry about the basics. I can focus on getting my license put in order. I could get what I needed to get a job. Joy Junction gives me the opportunity to save up money and get my documents in order. I couldn't do that while on the streets."
Turner is now in his second month of the life recovery program. He is doing well. His volunteer assignment is shelter security.
Always ready to assist anyone in need, residents and staff alike, he is helping to dispel some of the fear and apprehension he felt when first coming through the guard shack gate.
What does Turner hope to do after Joy Junction?
He said, "I hope I can get a good job. I hope to just restart my life. This is my rebirth here. I am using Joy Junction to be born again. I have God in my heart, the Bible in my reading, and a new outlook on life. I wouldn't be able to get that out there on the streets."
Turner added, "Joy Junction is helping me spiritually. They have helped me with my anger towards God. I am reading the Bible more than I have ever done, and I am learning from it."
Kevin, we are proud of you and believe that the Lord will help you accomplish the special plan He has for your life. Our prayers are with you.
|Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter,http://www.joyjunction.org He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "Homeless in the City."|
Additional details on "Homeless in the City" are available at http://www.homelessinthecity.