The true measure of a man is not in how many times he falls down, but in how he picks himself up. Harold Kelly’s past is marked by violence, loss and addiction. But his future has never been brighter.
Kelly’s most notable troubles came in 1974, when he was convicted of 2nd degree murder. He served nearly 20 years behind bars before making parole. His wife passed away in 1996 and Kelly would be in and out of prison for the next decade because of parole violations related to his drug and alcohol addiction. But he would not let these events define him.
Kelly came to New Vision House of Hope upon his release in February 2013, where staff found him a place in transitional housing. While getting clean, Kelly worked for New Vision House of Hope as an assistant house manager and then a house manager before finding a permanent residence.
“They were patient enough with me to give me the opportunity to find housing,” Kelly says. “When my [permanent] housing did come through, they were real proud of me, and I was proud of myself and so was my family.”
Staff say Kelly’s transition has been remarkable and he has become a fixture of the organization. Kelly says he’s formed a close connection with the New Vision House of Hope staff and clients, knowing that a support network functions best when everyone is willing to give to others.
“They’ve been very supportive of me, so I’ve been supportive of them,” Kelly says. “I’m very grateful for what they’ve done for me.”
For years, Kelly believed he could overcome his issues on his own, saying he didn’t know how to ask for help. He says New Vision House of Hope not only gave him the tools to change, but the confidence he needed as well. While it was New Vision House of Hope’s staff and programming that ultimately helped Kelly turn his life around, he says a person has to truly commit to change for their own sake.
“My thing is, if you got no room to change inside, the program is no good,” Kelly says. “But if you want to better yourself and be respectful, and have a good outlook on life and a good esteem of yourself, you can conquer the world.”
Kelly now works part-time as security for New Vision House of Hope’s homeless women’s shelter. Being homeless himself once, Kelly says he talks to the women about their situation and encourages them to keep working toward something better.
“Pick yourself up and have high standards for yourself” He says
Along with his security work, Kelly, a trained chef, volunteers his expertise as a cook at New Vision House of Hope events. He’s stayed connected to the agency over the years because of his deep appreciation for the help they’ve given him. Now he just hopes to return that generosity to others in need.
“I’ve been appreciative for what New Vision has done for me,” Kelly says. “They’ve helped me through my journey and gave me the opportunity to better myself and the opportunity to help people.”
Sometimes when things start to go bad, they can snowball and get out of control in a hurry. That’s what happened to Mark Atkinson, who came to New Vision House of Hope in August 2015.
Atkinson was going through a divorce and had moved out of his house, planning to live in his car for just a short time while searching for a new place. But that’s when budget cuts caused him to be laid off from his IT job in the mayor’s office, and a bad situation became worse. Atkinson was trying to figure out his next move when he happened to run into his brother-in-law on the street, who told him about New Vision House of Hope.
A FRESH START
Atkinson says he didn’t have the proper paperwork when he showed up, but New Vision House of Hope staff immediately helped him get what he needed and moved him into transitional housing shortly thereafter. He would spend the next six months in the supportive housing, using the organization’s other resources to try to find a job.
“During that six months, I was pretty much coming in here to use the computer every day,” Atkinson says. “I was looking for a professional career, so it wasn’t like I could just walk in the door and apply for something.”
Atkinson was spending so much time at the facility, that one of the staff members joked he might as well work at New Vision House of Hope. As soon as a position opened up, Atkinson applied and has been working for the organization ever since.
“My first day on the job, they just made me feel so warm and so welcome,” Atkinson says. “They go above and beyond the call.”
CONTINUING TO SERVE
Much of his work has been spent addressing the needs of Veterans. After serving 10 years in the U.S. Army himself, Atkinson became one of the roughly 50,000 homeless Veterans living in the United States. Although services are available to help them, Atkinson says accessing those services isn’t so easy.
“We have some great programs for the Veterans, but you can get bogged down in a lot of the paperwork,” Atkinson says. “You have to be willing to go through the process.”
Atkinson is trying to make that process easier at New Vision House of Hope by automating all of their paperwork so it can be filled out more quickly. Since finding permanent housing himself, Atkinson says he hopes to be a “beacon” for other Veterans to show them that if he could make it through difficult times, they can too.
His time in the military took him around the world, to places like Japan, Honduras, Spain and Germany. His time after the service left him homeless. But his journey didn’t end there, and though it has been a long road, Atkinson feels grateful to be where he is now, and thankful he can make the journey a little easier for others.
“Not only did I get housing at the end of the rainbow, but I also got a job where I can show my appreciation and help other Veterans,” Atkinson says.
“I sleep well at night knowing I can help my fellow man.”
– Mark Atkinson