By Tiffany Teng
“The smile on her face was so worth it, I’d do it every day if I could,” Ryan described the moment he told his mother he passed the GED. After years of living on the streets, coping with his heroin drug addiction, raising his son (now 13 years old) and landing back in jail every couple of years, he is eager, yet terrified, to move on with his life. Ryan R. is a 36 year-old client at the Rescue Mission’s TEACH Program, an educational program run by Ida Malloy.
During his interview, Ryan detailed some of misconceptions about homelessness and praised programs such as TEACH. Not only is passing the GED a motivating factor to move forward, but “people like Miss Ida are the ones who motivate you, they let you know that you’re worth it whether you realize it or not…no matter how pissed off you get.”
At the Rescue Mission, he was finally motivated to make his mother (who was diagnosed with breast cancer) and son proud and by receiving an education. Currently finishing the methadone treatment, Ryan sees such programs as opportunities, but certainly no cakewalk; “you’ve got to do the footwork, no one’s gonna do it for you.”
Throughout the years, Ryan was most bothered by the stereotype that all drug addicts are awful, violent people. He points out that before he became homeless in November, he and his son used to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for those on the streets. Ryan emphasized, “Homelessness doesn’t care whether you’re white, black, gay, or straight…”
So, what is the solution?
Successful drug treatment programs, re-entry programs and increasing the availability of housing after prison. Decreasing incarceration of drug abusers, and most of all, making people aware. Shedding light on the people living under the bridge. Having everything taken from you. “You gotta have nothing in order to know how you’ll make out.”
Ryan is a prime example of a man who came from a good, tight-knit family who fell into the wrong crowd out of sheer curiosity. He will be the first one to admit, “I did this to myself. Now I’ve got health problems, physically and mentally.”
Education, above all, is crucial to eliminating homelessness. At the very least, educating others about the issue of homelessness unearths the real problems that remain undetected and unaddressed.
Soon Ryan hopes to detox from methadone, move on with his life, and get an education.
“A place without homelessness, no drugs.”
The Rescue Mission of Trenton’s TEACH Program is a comprehensive adult education program that offers GED preparation, along with basic life skills and technical training. It strives to create employment and life-changing opportunities through its job placement program for residents. The TEACH Program relies on volunteers for tutoring and special classes. Questions can be directed to IdaM@rmtrenton.org.