"I think I found God the day I walked out of that nightclub."
I met Richard in early December of 2017 when he approached me to share that every time I pray at a food share it makes him cry. Intrigued by that statement and his overall demeanor, I sought him out in pursuit of an interview. A couple of weeks later at our Christmas Eve foodshare, he granted me permission to record our conversation and to share it with our SSO family.
This is Richard's story.
The first thing Richard wanted me to know was that he is a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub shooting that took place on June 12, 2016. Prior to that night, he was married to his husband of seven and a half years, held a job at a popular theme park and lived in a great apartment in downtown Orlando. The impact of the night of June 12th created a devastating aftershock.
After leaving the club the night of the shooting, Richard immediately sought release from what he had witnessed by shooting up crystal meth for the first time. Two days later, his husband committed suicide unable to overcome the images and sounds of that night that relentlessly plagued his psyche day and night.
Since his husband was the primary provider of the home, Richard was evicted a few short days after his death and without money or support from family found himself on the street. His addiction grew with his sorrows and he found himself in a devastating cycle of loneliness, helplessness and fear. The post traumatic stress caused by that night keep him emotionally unstable, afraid of loud noises, and unable to stay in a rehabilitation program or keep a job.
As of the day of our conversation, Richard is a month clean of crystal meth but relies on marijuana to keep sedate. He has been "adopted" by "family" on the street who manage his food stamps and money to keep him from using. He is grateful to them for helping him survive and navigate through homelessness and is loyal to them and panhandles with the hopes of being able to raise enough to get them all in a hotel room, even if just for a night.
When asked if he had any hopes of getting off the street he said, "I'm stuck. I have no way of making money other than panhandling because I can't work and I don't trust anybody but them." When asked about his faith, Richard says he mostly identifies himself as a Wikken, but admits he recognized there was a God the moment he walked out of the club without "unnecessary holes" in his body.
Please join me in praying for Richard.