Jesse remembers the day he arrived at the downtown Orlando Lynx bus station with everything he owned in two small bags. Originally from Detroit, he decided to move to Orlando to get away from his old life and start fresh.
“I sat at the bench with mixed emotions of excitement and uncertainty and was thinking to myself, ‘What am I going to do?’” he says. “But I knew that I made the right choice because if I would have stayed, I would be dead or in prison.”
He found out about the Coalition and was enrolled in the Introductory Phase for the first few months and was assigned to his case manager, Donald Haney.
“He would always pull me aside and give me some wise words of wisdom and say, ‘Don’t worry about making friends. Do what you need to do to get your life together.’ His advice was very helpful to me at the time,” he recalls.
After his first 90 days in the Introductory Phase, he moved upstairs to his own bed and locker and was assigned to Al McKinnon.
Jesse started a job as a server at a restaurant and was excited when the new paychecks came in. With his new freedom, he started going out and getting involved in the nightlife.
“I thought I would be fine. I’m just a number to the Coalition. Fortunately, Al saw more than that. He called me into his office one afternoon and said to me, ‘Jesse, I’ve been watching you since you came here.’ Al imparted on me that I should not get sidetracked and he put me back on course. It was then that I realized this man is not just here for a paycheck. He’s here because he cares.”
The two of them formed a bond that Jesse credits to his success today.
“My attitude began to change and I realized how truly good the workers at the Coalition were. They are all here because they care. From the counselors, to the security personnel, to the administrators, every time I saw my case manager, I was given advice and guidance. If I needed someone to talk to in his absence, there was always another staff member with a listening ear and an open heart.”
A year later, Jesse moved into his own apartment with a renewed mindset and plan for the future.
“I always knew I was alive to make a positive impact and the Coalition has given me a chance to do just that. I will always remember where I was and where I am now and all of the great people I met along the way. I’m especially thankful for my case manager, Al McKinnon, who took me ‘under his wing’ and kept me positive.”