James Smith was addicted to drugs and living on the streets when he reached a crossroad. It happened in an unplanned moment of self-reflection in the bathroom at his sister’s home.
That’s when he looked up into a mirror and he didn’t like what he saw, didn’t like what he had become.
“It was not me, and I knew that I was going to either hell or jail, he said. “So I decided to get help.”
A Memphis native and Carver High School graduate of 1975, Smith’s addiction began not long after he said he miraculously survived a house fire in 1989.
After years of living nomadically around the streets, on park benches and below highway overpasses, the Army veteran recently began his pursuit of sobriety and a new life.
After finishing drug rehab via the VA, he was accepted into the Alpha Omega Veterans Service, a Mid-South Food Bank Partner Agency and charitable facility for distressed or homeless military veterans near Downtown.
His strength has returned just as his outlook on life has been reshaped.
“My mind is set right. I don’t feel like I’m the same person anymore. I was not eating – my addiction came before my meals.”
Three weeks ago, he weighed 140 lbs. Now his weight is almost 160.
Melvin Williams, executive chef at Alpha Omega for 12 years, says the meals provided by food from Mid-South Food Bank is an integral part of the intertwined services helping distressed veterans at Alpha Omega. While the facility provides temporary places to live for 18 veterans, more stop by on any given day for a hot meal.
“We find ways to serve balanced, nutritious meals and we give them variety,” Williams said, mentioning designated steak days, and exotic salads on others.
“And that translates in to happy, healthy hearts. The nutrition makes a big, big difference.”
Smith said that homeless people often don’t trust people who want to help them, and many of them who may be veterans are also embarrassed that they need a helping hand. Yet for them to exist requires desperate measures.
“They want to take care of themselves but are unable to do so,” he said. “I know I felt useless.
Now I feel like I am somebody again. I feel like I’m worth a million dollars. This place is a God send.”