If I didn't end up here at the Mission, I would go back to doing drugs again, and I'd end up ... I'd end up dead.

I'm thankful for the Mission because they gave me a roof, a bed, housing, medical, and awesome staff.

Very early in life, the seed of addiction was planted in Billy, barely before he was a teenager and certainly before he was even legal to drive. When Billy was eight, his parents divorced. 

“My mom lived with a couple of other different guys, and they were into drugs and alcohol. So, I was kinda a problem child,” Billy says as he recounts his childhood.  

Until he turned 18, the foster system cared for Billy. He then moved to Woodburn to live with his dad.  

But the hard knocks of life beat Billy down before a short-lived marriage with his first wife ended. 

“I thought I had everything under control, and I didn’t. I went right back to the drugs and alcohol, again,” says Billy who was imprisoned not long after for four years.  

Since then, he has been in and out of incarceration. The death of his second wife threatened to snuff out any remaining hope. “I kinda gave up on life,” Billy admits. 

To everything there is a beginning and an end. Billy knew his destructive lifestyle was walking a dangerous line between life and death. He had a decision to make. 

“[I realized if] I didn’t stop doing what I was doing, the only other place I had was … it’s hard to say this but, death.” Billy was at a crossroads when he showed up at Union Gospel Mission of Salem.  

Life felt like a blur as Billy acclimated and stabilized at UGM. In those early days, he parked himself in one of the black leather chairs in the dayroom and claims he hardly moved. Two weeks later, he began emerge from his stupor.   

Billy captured with one of UGM’s health clinic staff.

Since day one, Billy has received compassionate intervention from the Mission: a warm bed, medical care, counsel, case management, and open arms from staff who cared too much to let him stay the same. On his own volition, Billy serves others at UGM by translating Spanish for the staff and setting an example for the other guests. 

As Billy prepares for independence, a job, housing, continued sobriety, and church community are top of mind.  

“I’m a better person than who I used to be … I’m thankful for the Mission because they gave me a roof, a bed, housing, medical care, and [they have] awesome staff.” 

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I wish there was more facilities like Simonka that were willing to open their doors no matter what your circumstance, no matter what your affliction is.
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