Samuel does not boast.
He talks about the mistakes he has made and the choices he wishes he had not made.
He talks about his children with admiration, not pride, saying he isn’t the reason for any of their successes.
For most of his life, Samuel has simply been struggling to get by. Samuel first became a father when he was just 13-years-old. He grew up in a neighborhood where survival, not success, was the top priority. He grew up too fast and didn’t have an opportunity to transition into adulthood. He has artistic talent and was awarded an architecture scholarship to DePaul University, but laments he let it slip through his fingers.
“I was in the streets hustling and all that type of stuff. All my life I depended on other people,” he said. Now, it’s time for me to get up and do it.”
He spent six months sleeping on a mat on the floor of Catholic Charities’ Dorothy Day Center before moving to the shelter at Higher Ground Saint Paul when it opened early January.
“I’m not going to complain about that. Before I came here I used to sleep on the train. It was a struggle every day, hoping you don’t get mugged. When I would see daylight, that’s when I knew it was time to get off,” he said. “Here, sleeping right next to people is different, but it’s a little more comfortable sleeping on a soft mat than hard seats.”
Samuel moved off the train and into Dorothy Day Center when he got a job—his first full time, regular job. He works full time as a dishwasher and prep cook at Pazzaluna Urban Italian in downtown Saint Paul. Having security and a job has changed his life and given him purpose and confidence.
“I love it. I actually hate that I have off days. When you’re comfortable and you can enjoy being at work it makes you feel so good, real good. I’ve been loving every moment,” he said. “I go to work super early and I leave super late and they love me. You don’t always get that type of love nowadays.”
When he gets his paychecks he goes to the bank where he recently opened his first bank account. Half of it goes in his checking account, the other half in a savings account in his infant daughter’s name.
When he transitioned to Higher Ground Saint Paul, along with his bags, he had a tattered to do list. Made so many months ago, the list has guided Samuel in making positive choices and he’s seen the good it has done.
The next item on that list? A permanent place to call home.
“I’m making progress. I’m moving up. I want to have my own say in life,” he said. “I want to be able to have some responsibilities now. I’m proud of my accomplishments. The things I’ve been able to accomplish have shown me that I need to keep going to be able to help other people out.”