Life on the streets was a matter of survival for Joe. Nearly overnight, food, water and shelter became his top priorities – requiring his full attention.

Like many in our community, Joe was just one pay check away from homelessness. For him it came in the form of a torn ACL. He lost his construction job and was unable to make rent.

Joe describes his introduction to homelessness as horrible, “There was nowhere to get food. Nobody to help you. You were on your own… sometimes you just didn’t eat.”

Joe had never known hunger before becoming homeless. On the streets, he’d go up to three days without food.

“It’s kind of like your stomach is eating itself. It is the worst feeling ever. You feel drained. No energy, no nothing.”

Joe survived by living in encampments around Fife and Tacoma with other folks struggling like he was. He often cooked his meals over a fire. “The fires also helped keep the animals away,” he recounts.

The hardest part was coming back to camp after looking for food to find someone had burned his camp down. He always had to be on the move, which made it nearly impossible to get a decent night’s sleep.

Joe was always a strong guy, but being homeless, sleep deprived, and injured he now struggled to carry around his 240 pound backpack. Running out of strength, options and hope, Joe came to the Mission.

Joe admits that he doesn’t remember much about his first meal at the Mission. “I came during the Friday Night Feed. I got a soda, a donut and some other food.” However, he does remember the feeling of not having to search for food the next day. “Not having to worry about food was a great feeling.”

Joe came to the Mission for a meal, but he found so much more. He’s now looking forward to his future.

“I have goals now, not like before where it was ‘maybe wake up tomorrow’… Now, I want to go to college.”

Joe’s mind turns to family with the holidays fast approaching. His mother passed away when Joe was just 16 – and his last holiday meal with family was over 10 years ago. But now, he calls the community of the Tacoma Rescue Mission his family.

“Family is people who care. Money comes and goes. Things come and go. People who you can depend on – that’s what really matters.”

Because of you, Joe found more than a meal when he came to the Mission. He found a new life, hope and family. Thank you for helping to provide this community – this family – of support for Joe, and others like him.