As we sat down at a local coffee shop the first thing Ladd said to me was, “I never expected to end up living on the street with nowhere to go. I had my own construction business and I thought that homelessness was something that I didn’t have to worry about.”

Ladd’s problem was economics.

“First my business slowed down when the economy tanked, then I went through a difficult divorce, then my car broke down.” What really stung, was when his mother passed away.  Things were looking pretty grim but Ladd did not give-up. He began working as a handyman and took a job at Walmart to try and pay his bills, but he just was not making enough money to stay in his home. Eventually, after struggling for months Ladd lost his home.

“I didn’t know what to do. I was stuck, but thankfully I had a friend that gave me an idea,” Ladd’s friend told him to have a garage sale and sell all of his belongings instead of leaving them behind. With this plan Ladd earned some money, not enough to stay in his home, but he did have money for food.

Ladd had to sell everything he owned except what he could carry on his back and he still had the strength to face this overwhelming trauma of becoming homeless with hope.

Like many of our clients, Ladd learned about Bridge House from other individuals living on the street. He immediately went to see a case manager because he had lost his license. Bridge House was able to help him pay for his license and before he left a case manager handed him a brochure about Ready to Work.

“This (Ready to Work) was exactly what I was looking for”, Ladd explained. “I needed a safe place to be, I needed a job and a place to figure out what I wanted.”

I have been the Development Director for Bridge House for 7 years and every trainee that I have met has an amazing story of resilience and success, but Ladd’s story really inspired me. While I was talking to him one thing shined through his story – his amazing positivity and passion for living, he truly sees the beauty in life.

After 11 months at Ready to Work now Ladd is housed, employed – a graduate. He proudly showed me a picture of the view from his apartment window, “look at what I see every morning when I wake up, I am a truly blessed man and Ready to Work gave me the one thing I had been looking for – a chance.”

Ladd was recently promoted at his new job and he loves it and in September he will have had all the work completed on his new set of teeth – thanks to North Bolder Dental.

Another part of Ladd’s story demonstrates a fundamental part of Ready to Work is building positive relationships with peers. A mutually supportive friendship or mentorship with a fellow Ready to Work trainee can make all the difference. We see it time and time again, trainees looking out for each other, lending a hand when someone is down, an encouraging word when someone is on the brink of relapse. As graduates move on, these relationships become an important part of aftercare.

“In this program I have made life-long friends and my roommate (a fellow graduate who is 20 years his junior) is like the son I never had. I just feel comfortable in my own skin and that is worth more than money. Being content and happy, feeling connected and that I belong. Now, I can just relax and be me. I have never fit into anyone’s mold and that is why Ready to Work worked for me because they accepted me for who I am.”

Everyone comes into the program with their own life history – their own issues that led them to homelessness – and there is not a one size fits all solution to everyone’s situation. This is what makes Bridge House different because all of the staff when they are working with a client keeps that in mind.

All of our Ready to Work graduates have taken the opportunity and transformed their lives for the better. It takes a lot of hard work to graduate and nothing is handed to any trainee in the program. Ladd is just one of the stories, one of our graduates that have changed their life, and like Ladd there is one consistent theme running through every graduate’s story – gratitude – they are thankful for the opportunity, paid employment, the safe place to live and the support to work on their individual needs.

As Ladd was getting ready to leave he said, “I have received so many blessings in my life, now I want to give back to others and continue to live a life of gratitude.”

We always say to our clients, we just gave you an opportunity, you did the rest. But the truth is we can’t provide these opportunities without the more than 2,000 who support us each year. We are all connected, our community supports each other, and I am grateful for that.

Written by Emily Messina

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