Each discerning decision Eric has made since his imprisonment 15 years ago has redirected his steps to a miraculous life he never thought possible.
At this point in time, Eric is around 150 days this side of a prison cell. As he adjusts, sometimes he feels like an alien in another world, relearning how to live and function in society, which, for someone who has lived years behind bars, can feel completely foreign.
“The idea of institutionalization is a real thing…I still and probably always will have some fragments of this…” says Eric.
But as he reintegrates back into society, he now has a safe and stable place to unwind. Union Gospel Mission of Salem’s Restoration House has been the steppingstone he needed to cross from his past life of incarceration to the life he’s been waiting to live.
“A friend at church mentioned Restoration House and I had no other options that I had really been looking at,” Eric says. “I had the financial means to go get an apartment, go get my own place, but I could not mentally imagine going and sitting in an apartment by myself.”
It may be surprising to hear Eric had the resources to live independently yet chose not to. But life after incarceration is not as easy as simply moving into a new place and starting a new life.
For Eric, there have been three key provisions made by Restoration House that have been instrumental to his success.
For one, he’s living with 46 other men who can relate to his struggle. They can talk candidly with one other without fear of judgment or misunderstanding.
“If I said, ‘Man, I’ve got a little bit of PTSD from all the time I’ve done,’ someone would say, ‘I understand.’ We’ve grown up in a war zone. Now we’re in society drinking a latte.”
Secondly, the structure of the House has been attributed to his success and feelings of normalcy.
“There were some rules: curfew, chores, stay clean, always the accountability of a UA—that was helpful—the Bible studies…”
Lastly, and more specifically, the accountability that’s built in at Restoration House.
“I’m so grateful they accepted me that I just don’t want to disappoint those guys,” says Eric who greatly esteems Jim Hope, the manager of the House. “Jim is the heartbeat of that place. You can sense he has an ability to be kind and firm, providing a standard we can all respect … the House without the people who support it is just a tiny apartment.”
If you were to sit down over a cup of coffee, maybe a latte, with Eric, you’d be stunned over the miraculous things God has done in his life, even amid the despair and heartache.
“I did lots of things while I was in [prison]. I wrote a book, I taught investment classes, I rebuilt a dog rehabilitation program, I worked at the highest levels as the warden’s assistant for years. I was very much a model inmate; I lived in the best places,” says Eric.
Phenomenally, upon his release, a job was lined up.
“The job was a literal miracle. I just reached out through a church, and they recommended this particular guy… I stayed in contact with this man for a year before I got out and he’s a manager at this job. He picked up the phone every time I called.”
God is the author of “things that happened that never should’ve happened.”
“I’ve already been promoted, been given a raise, and moved up really fast. I’ve worked hard and I don’t want to let this guy down,” Eric says.
The Lord has been with Eric and has caused him to succeed. And He will be with Eric once he’s ready to take the next step. UGM is just thankful to be a part of his story.
“I know for sure the thing I want to do is volunteer and work with people coming out of prison. But I’m not ready yet, I’m still working on me.”
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6