Mike made one mistake that changed everything.

One day, he was driving and ran out of gas. A police officer stopped and ran his license plate. The officer told Mike, “This vehicle was reported stolen; did you know your lease expired?”

Mike told the police officer that he knew his lease ended; he was planning on buying the car but hadn’t taken care of the paperwork. Although Mike was being truthful, his honesty was not rewarded. Instead, he was charged with felony theft and sentenced to 15 months in prison.

When he was released in January, he faced a whole new life. He had no one to turn to and nowhere to go. Without his medications for depression and anxiety, Mike quickly lost all hope.

“To be honest, I was planning on suicide,” Mike said. “I didn’t have anyone to talk to and I didn’t know what else to do.”

That all changed when he was referred to United Way agency partners. Full Shelf Food Pantry made sure he didn’t go hungry. Youth & Family Project’s case management staff helped Mike get the mental health services and medications he needed. They provided temporary housing and support to get his life back on track.

“We are here to help people feel valued,” said Linda White, part of Youth & Family Project’s Supportive Living Team. “Although individuals go through tough times, we want to make sure they never give up.”

Mike’s felony record made it difficult to find work, but after weeks of walking around West Bend applying for jobs, Mike was hired as a seasonal worker in a garden center.

“His face just lit up when he told us he got a job,” Linda said. “It was like he finally got his hope back.”

Then Mike got a second job. Although he had to walk 45 minutes to work six days a week, he was proud of himself and the progress he was making. He saved the money he earned and in August, he was able to move into his own apartment.

“Without this program, I would be dead,” Mike said. “Everyone in the shelter has a story, and they just need someone to help.”

Thank you for helping homeless men like Mike!

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