Because everyone has a story, and it deserves to be heard…
Who is Amanda? It’s a question she has asked herself plenty of times. Growing up she didn’t have the best childhood, and in the course of her 29 years has seen the saddest parts of life including various abuses and drugs. Despite this, she has a goal to make people smile because everybody deserves to know that somebody out there cares.
Amanda was born and raised in Tacoma, and despite her negative upbringing the real downturn for her began in 2018. She had finished three quarters of her first year of college as a criminal justice and forensics major, but had to withdraw for health reasons and family problems in 2016. In June 2018 she lost her two boys to CPS, followed two weeks later by losing her housing. A week and a half after, on June 29, 2018, Amanda’s dad passed away. Amanda married just two weeks later hoping this man in her life would be a rescue, only to have him introduce her to drugs and more abuse. They separated after his abuse put her in the hospital on Christmas Eve 2018.
After being discharged from the hospital Amanda was able to find shelter with some family and friends, but ultimately she had no place of her own. She eventually ended up in a shelter in Tacoma when one evening while eating dinner a guy came in, said he had an RV and was leaving town and would take whoever wanted to go. Amanda was one of the first out the door.
They travelled across the state into Idaho, and eventually back towards Spokane. Amanda ultimately ended up in a homeless camp in Mead, WA where she met Julie Garcia and the team from Jewels Helping Hands. Amanda came to the warming center on it’s opening night.
Since her time in the warming center it is evident that Amanda has not lost her hopes and dreams. Today she is 22 days sober, and is working with a company on manufactured homes as well as getting her pilot car certification. She is also working towards a plan for housing as well as completing the classes to be able to receive her kids back.
Amanda has a passion for construction, auto mechanics, criminal justice, and has a dream to own her own business when she is back on her feet.
Amanda is also passionate for the homeless. Through Jewels she has met a lot of great and genuine people, and says, “everything [Jewels] is doing is one thing that I have wanted to do. I’ve wanted to help the homeless community, and to give back. People see homeless as bad, and I understand there are homeless people who are bad and do bad things, but same with people that have jobs. It’s not just a certain group. So what they are doing is amazing; everything they are doing is what I want to do. So it warms my heart to know that people do care.”
Finally, she has a deep appreciation and gratitude for our men and women in the military, as well as our police, fire, EMS, and medical community.
Amanda would like to say thank you to all the staff and volunteers at Jewels Helping Hands and to City Church Spokane!
“John” has asked us not to use his real name or share his picture, but is allowing us to freely share his story.
John was born and raised in Spokane. His parents both abused drugs and alcohol as well as each other. Home was not a joyful place for John, and so he spent most of his time alone in the woods. School was also a struggle. Because he grew up poor, he was on the free and reduced lunch program through his school. Kids being what they are, they often bullied and teased John for his shortcomings.
At the age of 12 John’s parents divorced, and he moved with his dad to Orange County, CA. John found a new community of friends in California; ones that didn’t know his past and he was able to start over. Unfortunately, John’s dad remained broken, and introduced him to an array of drugs including alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. It was not unusual for his dad to bring friends home from the bar, and for all of them (including John) to snort lines together.
The financial status of his dad didn’t change, and John continued to go hungry at school. To remedy this John began selling marijuana to his classmates so he could get lunch money. In the end John got caught and expelled from school. From there John’s addiction to drugs, as well as the physical altercations, began to spin out of control and John found himself hooked on heroin.
When John was 20 he got word that his mom was sick. He returned to Spokane, and was with her when she passed away while they were watching Deadliest Catch together. John struggled to find sobriety and steady work. In 2013, he attempted suicide by mainlining heroin into his neck. While he survived he ended up falling ill to a severe brain infection. He spent over five months in the hospital under 24 hour suicide watch learning to use his motor functions again.
Most recently John had a lead position at a window company, and also found sobriety. Unfortunately the company issued mass layoffs when COVID hit, and John fell back into old destructive habits again.
He was able to find housing with an old friend. Street life being what it can be sometimes, John went out one day for coffee, only to come back and find himself locked out, house empty, and all of his belongings gone. John spent the next two days wandering downtown in tears when he walked by one of the shower trailers with Jewels Helping Hands. A JHH staff made contact with him, and brought him back to the warming center.
John is wanting and working to come back off opiates, and will start his suboxone program next week. While at the warming center he has been able to apply for and begin to receive his unemployment. He is actively working towards permanent housing, and is looking for work.
Someday he would like to be married to a wonderful woman, but recognizes he’s still too rough around the edges at this point in his life and wants the woman he marries to receive him at his best.
Bobby was born and raised Butte County, California. He’s 31 and currently living on the streets of Spokane. His childhood was rough; abuse and mental health issues framed his upbringing until he couldn’t take it any more and he ran away to the unforgiving streets of Sacramento at the age of 16. Life wasn’t much better on the streets, which left Bobby desperate for relief from the constant chaos and uncertainty. He checked himself into a group home initially, but quickly decided to move on to be with his mom, who was living in Everett, Washington at the time. So he packed up his things and headed north to be with her.
Shortly after moving to Everett, greater opportunities led them to the Chelan/ Wenatchee area where he found work at a packing plant, and met the woman who would become the mother of his two precious children. At the age of 19 Bobby found himself a new father, and quickly rising in the ranks at work thanks to his hard work and attention to detail. He was promoted to heading up quality and quantity control, and was also working towards buying his first home in Leavenworth. Things were looking good for a kid who had been given less than most, and found himself with an opportunity to do more than just make ends meet. However, something else was growing too. The drugs started off as just a once in a while or at a party type thing with his girl and him, but as they so often do, the drugs began to demand more and more attention as the addiction worsened. They became weekend warriors, followed by everyday users. They were stuck, and it was ruining their lives.
The fighting got physical between the two of them, and Bobby ended up in prison, which he admitted was the right call; he was out of line. In addition to prison time there was also a no contact order placed on him that he wasn’t aware of. On getting out Bobby’s girlfriend found him and the relationship, with all its baggage, ensued until they were stopped by authorities and Bobby found himself in prison again, only this time it would be for 5 years. Depression got bad and then everything fell apart.
On the outside the kids’ mom wasn’t doing very well either, and ended up striking a deal with the state that backfired on her, and as a result she and Bobby lost custody to their kids. The kids were adopted and there was nothing Bobby could do from behind bars. Around the same time Bobby’s father passed away, and all the guilt of not being there for anyone that mattered to him due to his actions grew deeper, consuming him more times than not. Upon getting released in Spokane in 2017, Bobby was able to quickly gain employment and an apartment, but he couldn’t get free of the guilt, shame and depression that continued to haunt him. It was too much to bear and the addiction won over again. In an attempt to get away and start over Bobby moved back to Everett with his sister. However, upon finding out that his mother, who was still in Spokane, was sick and on the streets herself, he decided to come back to help her. He couldn’t see a way to help her from afar and she needed him more than a job would allow. So, he chose the streets to be with his mom over pursuing his own freedom.
The streets and the addictions are ruthless companions that always take more than they give, but sometimes they seem to be the only thing keeping the pain and the chill of death away. Bobby painfully explained how meth had ruined his life, and still to this day stalks in the shadows waiting for any opportunity to steal the next opportunity. Yet it is also the very thing that has enabled him to survive some brutally cold nights with enough energy to keep moving so he doesn’t freeze to death. A torturous rock and in impossible hard place. He wants out in the worst way, and he knows he needs help.
As we talked I saw a man who has a huge heart for others. Who deeply misses his babies and regrets many of the decisions he’s made in his life. At the same time, Bobby is not a man who has completely lost hope! He’s here at the shelter with his mom making sure she is alright and not alone. He’s been sober almost 4 weeks, and while he has already gotten off the suboxone and heroin, he knows he needs to get into a program to kick his last addiction: meth. Yet, he refuses to leave his mom behind. He refuses to leave another family member in their time of need, an he’s determined to help her get into her own housing where she can be safe and cared for, and until then his future is on hold.
For now getting clean is step one. He is focused on that and that alone. He knows that if he is going to accomplish his goal of getting his mom cared for, getting his own place, getting back into the workforce, and out of the DOC’s crosshairs that his addiction needs to be dealt with first. If he’s not clean, nothing will move forward. This is the plan, this is where Jewel’s Helping Hands really helps.
Bobby said, “if it wasn’t for Julie Garcia and her team, I would probably be dead right now. She’s like a second mom to me with how she loves me and helps me move forward.” At the shelter Bobby gets help with medical, housing and support getting back on his feet. And because he’s not fighting for his life every night he has been able to remain sober more and more. Gaining these little victories gives hope and sets vision in peoples hearts. For Bobby, he sees himself sober, giving back to the homeless community through Jewel’s and working with his hands again in construction. But for now he’s going to continue to help out his mom, and even give the shirt of his back to his fellow roommates like he did when one of them had their bag stolen.
Doug has spent most of his life on the streets ranging from L.A. to Spokane. As seems to be common with most of the guests we have talked to, his childhood was extremely rough. His parents married shortly after World War II, in which his father served. Unfortunately, both parents were alcoholics, dabbled in drugs, and adultery. Ultimately, Doug was raised by his dad as his mom got pregnant and ran off with another man. She would eventually end up working in a brothel in Las Vegas. One of Doug’s earliest childhood memories was when he was 5, and his mother drove him and his 7 year old brother up from L.A., where she was living, to their dad’s house in Santa Barbara. She left them at the front door on a Friday afternoon, and went back to L.A. Their dad was not home, and so they remained on the front porch until his return Sunday evening.
Doug traveled with his dad up and down the California coast most of his childhood; going wherever Dad could find work at the time. Doug seemed to find trouble for himself wherever they landed saying, “the first 19 years of my life my heart was the blackest of blacks; life was very dark. If there was a sin to commit I’ve committed it.” Doug’s dad took him to a Billy Graham Crusade when he was 9, and Doug responded to the alter call, but it would be another 10 years before he would surrender to Jesus.
When Doug was 18, he traveled with two friends up to Snohomish, Washington. One of his friends had created an invention that helped expedite the production of furniture, and was showing it at the Snohomish County Fair. While in Snohomish, they had a falling out one night over a card game, and at 2am Doug was kicked out of their motel. “All the money I had on me went to renting that room, so I was out on the street with nothing and no way to get back home to California.” Through a dark turn of events of his own doing, Doug committed a crime and landed him in prison for the next twenty years. He was just 19 years old.
Not long afterwards, Doug found himself on his knees in his prison cell crying out to God, and wanting to be released from his addictions and lifestyle. Doug does suffer from a degree of brain damage so some of the details of his life in prison were a bit scattered, and hard to follow. Upon his release he stayed at the Union Gospel Mission for a time, but because of his felony conviction was never able to find housing. He ended up falling into meth addiction again, and settled on life on the streets of Spokane (though he has been clean for the last five years). However, he has not lost his faith in Jesus. Doug is known on the streets as Preacher, as he wants everyone he comes into contact with to know the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
Doug found a connection to Jewel’s Helping Hands through Kelly. Kelly and Doug knew each other from time on the streets. However, Kelly is one of many success stories through Jewels Helping Hands. Having found sobriety, housing, and employment herself, she remained in contact with Doug, and has been able to get him into warming centers during the winter. Unfortunately, he has lost fingers in the past to frostbite and is still at risk to this day from losing more.
Doug’s parting words from our interview were this: I hated my dad growing up, but looking back I can see that he did his best to raise me and I just wish I had the opportunity before he died to tell him thank you and let him know how much I appreciate him. “I’m confident I will see him again, and I look forward to telling him these things.”