2012-11-16 13.07.03On Friday, November 16, Willie slept under his own roof for the first time in over 6 years, having had other stints of homelessness before that. By some miracle, a member of Ecclesia contacted us about wanting to donate the essential furniture for an apartment due to his returning to the U.K., so Willie moved into a nearly fully furnished apartment!

Many others answered the call to help stock the RighTrak Industries transitional housing, too: a cell phone, towels and soaps from West U Rotary Club members; gift certificates to the Sunshine Resale Shop from the West U Rotary Club; a bookshelf, socks, alarm clock, clothes, kitchen gadgets and pans from folks at Trinity Lutheran; a TV and DVD player from Ecclesia. The list goes on.

The positive impact on Willie that has come from merely having a place to call home cannot be overstated. Having been relieved of the stress of finding shelter each and every night, Willie has been able to focus on his relationship with God, his plans for the future, following all the rules imposed on an ex-offender and, importantly, on not getting back into his old bad habits. Instead, he has been surrounded by loving, caring people who have made it clear they want to help support him and his success. Willie smiled so much this weekend that doubtless his face must have hurt.

2012-11-16 11.42.42Willie’s initiation into the RighTrak Industries community kicked off with a spontaneous (and probably divinely arranged) lunch at Tex-Chick Puertorrican Restaurant with Frank Parrilla, proprietor of Oporto Wine Bar and Cafe and one of the RighTrak volunteers who we thought wouldn’t be able to join any of the weekend’s activities. Instead, Willie and the others who joined him had a fantastic (and filling) lunch that included mofongo, a traditional Puerto Rican dish made from plantains. The group had some very deep conversation about bouncing back from the hardships of life.

After lunch Willie and his brother, Samuel headed to Ecclesia where Manuel, Eccelsia’s homeless ministry outreach director, presented Willie with the first, tangible evidence of Willie’s new life: keys to his very own apartment! After touring the place, Samuel led the group in a wonderful prayer asking God’s blessing on Willie’s new home.

Willie didn’t have much in the way of clothes, and he wanted to get rid of the clothes that he was wearing–the last vestige of his old life–so he and David LeFevre headed to the Sunshine Resale Shop in Bellaire. Thanks to the gift certificates donated by Caring Friends, Inc. and the West U Rotary Club, Willie got some new threads, most of which were dress and business casual because Willie wanted to make sure he fit in when going to church.

2012-11-16 16.09.32The evening culminated with a spaghetti dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse with other RighTrak Industries volunteers. Willie told part of his story and shared some of the struggles he’s had to endure. He also share some of his vision for the future–a prison ministry aimed at encouraging good behavior and breaking down with faith-based dialogue the feelings of inevitable recidivism and helplessness that many inmates have. (More on this to come.) Willie headed to bed, excited at the prospect of a new beginning and a new lease on life.

We are so incredibly blessed by a landlord with a big heart who rented an apartment to RighTrak Industries and by generous donations from folks that enable us to pay for it! Thank you so much.
A roof alone will improve Willie’s circumstances, but it would be really nice if we could do more than just provide a roof over his head. Let’s help him make him a home. Willie continues his thought- and prayer-journey as he prepares himself for some serious change. Why not help him do that in the safety and security of a real home. This isn’t just for Willie, though. This apartment gives Ecclesia and the IDF, along with Trinity Lutheran Church, an opportunity to provide transitional housing to many other people as they participate in the RighTrak program.
The apartment is just bare walls and a floor, and Willie (and others like him) have literally nothing, so anything you can think of to donate will be welcome.
Here is a promo video for the Open Table put together by our friends at The MET Church here in Houston. It does a great job of explaining what an Open Table is and how it works. Way better than reading a 10,000-word dissertation. Check it out.