From Father to Son

Cara Staff

In 2013, after decades of homelessness and drug abuse, Willie was ready to rebuild his life and reconnect with his family by coming to Cara. Four years later, his son Pierre did the same.

Willie: I spent three decades on the streets. Living in abandoned buildings, basically using anything I could to get high. I sold, stole, used, and abused. I was stealing from churches, from my family…whatever I had to do to get more. I had been beat, run over, left for dead…my life was in shambles.

Pierre: I was growing up on the streets and was in and out of jail. I was kicked out of school and had nowhere to go. I was incarcerated probably ten times, just every four to six months going back in. I wasn’t allowed to see my kids anymore and there was no end in sight to this behavior. I was on a path to self-destruction.

W: I seldom saw my kids. One day I was in the neighborhood…I was badly beat up and my daughter saw me. She couldn’t even look at me. She turned her back on me and she started crying. That was one of the worst feelings in my life. That’s when I realized I needed to get help.

I went to the Salvation Army to get off the streets and to get clean. But strangely enough, I first heard of Cara by divine intervention. I was walking down Desplaines and I just froze in front of the building. I walked in and the receptionist explained what Cara was and then I spoke with a member of the admissions team and I knew this was where I wanted to be.

For the first couple months I was terrified about revealing my past and my issues. One day, we did an exercise about relieving pressure. In it, I learned about the feelings I was holding about my parents and the complicated relationship with my father. I carried those feelings into adulthood and how it negatively affected my relationship with my wife. Releasing that pressure was amazing…Jesse let me cry on his shoulder that day.

At Cara, I was greeted with open arms, not clenched fists, and because of that I learned how to be more open to others and to share my pain.

P: My dad told me about Cara and he knew he wanted me to experience it for myself but I wasn’t ready yet.

W: I knew Cara was going to be right for him and he kept nodding it off and nodding it off until the one day he called me and said…

P: “Dad, I’m ready.”

W: There was a joyful feeling knowing that he was making the right choice for himself and his family.

P: From the start, I noticed there was something different here. For the first time in my life I had people who wanted to help push me in the right direction…including my father. It was calming knowing that I had someone familiar to talk to about this, but he was great at pushing me to succeed too.

One of my first days, I was going up the stairs and I saw all the names of the Cara graduates on the banners. So I stopped to find my dad’s. Mr. Jesse came up and started sharing stories about him. It inspired me to keep going.

W: Right away, I saw a whole new son. He had a new outlook on life and was ready to build stability for himself and his family.

P: Before Cara, my eyes had seen nothing but turmoil, hurt, danger…everything you can imagine. I knew that if I wanted to change that, I needed to start changing my behavior so I could look with new eyes.

W: My son and I now have a bond. We are able to be open and honest with one another. Now there’s nothing I can’t come to him about. He’s seen the change in me and I’ve seen the change in him.

P: I grew up without my father, but it turned out he was there for me when I needed him, it just wasn’t to the point where I wouldn’t have to endure what I did. That’s why I’m putting in the effort today so my children won’t have to live my life.

Willie has been employed with the Salvation Army as a truck operator for five years. Pierre recently started a general laborer position with Empire Hard Chrome.

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