Mike’s Story | From Homeless to Helpful

February 28, 2018

The wind was really picking up on Treasure Island, like it tends to do on most days, and it was giving Mike fits.  The short and stocky bespectacled gentleman, in the tight orange t-shirt and suspenders, was trying in earnest to dump broken-down cardboard boxes into the recycling bin outside the Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative building. As a volunteer at the Food Bank pantry there every Tuesday, Mike is ready to be helpful, and a little wind-blown cardboard wasn’t going to get in his way.
“God can’t throw anything at me that I can’t handle.”

Little did we know that he wasn’t just talking about cardboard. You see, Mike has handled a lot in life, including a life-changing tour of duty as a Marine in the Vietnam War, in which a majority of his battalion was killed in combat.  He returned stateside and found the transition to civilian life very tough.  Two marriages ended in divorce, leaving four children from those two unions with an absentee father at times. Eventually tough economic times forced him to live on the streets – a 4-year stretch when he says he struggled every day just to survive. Mike admits that he doesn’t read so well, and filling out forms for social services was nearly impossible.  Pride wouldn’t let him ask for help and that kept him down for most of his adult life.

Little did Mike know that his life was going to change.  A chance meeting with a military liaison at a homeless center produced promises of help and support.  Mike eventually wound up living at a Veteran’s supportive housing center on Treasure Island, and is now able to tap into his military pension to make ends meet.  He still does odd jobs around the Island to make a few extra bucks, but his current passion is volunteering at the TIHDI food pantry.

“Life is too short to be miserable,” he said, “And I like to bring joy to everyone around me. No one passes through my food line without a smile. That’s my goal.”

He marvels at all the food that’s provided on a weekly basis.   “There’s so much variety, it’s like Christmastime,” he said, “It not only helps people save money, but we get fruits and vegetables which most folks could never buy because those things are too expensive.”

Mike credits his friendships on Treasure Island, and the pantry, with helping him to find balance in his life. “The Food Bank does a marvelous job making people like me feel good, healthy and valued.  I don’t know if the Food Bank supporters know how much you are helping people. I’m the perfect example.”

If you would like to make a difference in the lives of people like Mike, please consider making a donation to the Food Bank today.