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Mile-high hope

"Mile-high hope" Continued...

Issue: "Effective Compassion," Sept. 1, 2007

Family advocate Denise Vaughn explains that staff members let people learn from their own mistakes, always remembering the ministry's guiding rule-give grace and second chances. Susan Sarno says the staff is respectful: "They don't look down on you here. They understand that people have problems."

Half of the Joshua Station families eventually secure long-term housing. According to board member Gary Armstrong, those who drop out of the program do so because "their old life was more comfortable than the new life they're creating."

Joshua Station's success stories include that of Francisco Esquivel, his wife Maria, and their daughter Guadalupe, who lived there from 2001 to 2002, after Maria had a stroke and Francisco a heart attack. The Esquivels sold their piano, jewelry, and tools, but could no longer afford rent and food along with their medical bills. They were ineligible for food stamps because Esquivel continued to work, so the family slept in a car for two weeks and lived at another shelter for two months before coming to Joshua Station. Esquivel says, "This place saved our lives." The staff called and visited Maria while Francisco was at work, and a Mile High Ministries legal aid clinic provided help.

Some 150 volunteers, including former residents like Francisco Esquivel, help each year. Each week Esquivel repairs furniture and does odd jobs at the station, saying, "I try to pay back. It's my pride." Another former resident remained in the program longer than he needed so his family could help other residents by buying groceries and providing transportation. Three retirees-two of them involved since 2001-come each week to paint, fix toilets, repair air conditioners, and do anything else on the station's to-do list. Lori Ventola, a resident volunteer since 2004, rents an apartment at the station and runs a school for the children. She and four other resident volunteers model stability and act as good neighbors.

Susan Sarno says that at Joshua Station, "You learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about why you're homeless." She notes that she used to blame her mother for her problems, but now for her daughter's sake is working to break the cycle of poor decision-making: "I learned to look inside of me and see the qualities I have and they're not all bad. I'm smart, and I'm a good-hearted person. I'm ambitious." Sarno says she now believes she can change her life.

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