From Homeless to Housing

Patrick Arrington

Every night throughout Central Florida, there are countless men, women and children sleeping in their cars. With nowhere to go, their vehicles provide the last bit of shelter they have as they try to turn their lives around.

Of course, sleeping in a car can present a tremendous amount of danger and is often just a step closer to living on the streets.

That was the case for Patrick Arrington, who arrived at Rescue Outreach Mission in January. Patrick had spent a lifetime as an electrician, focused on retail properties. When COVID hit, those jobs – and his career – disappeared.

“This is the first time I’ve experienced homelessness because I’ve always had more money than I needed,” he says. “That got me in trouble.”

Patrick was sleeping in his car in Lake Mary when law enforcement checked his tags and found he had a suspended license, caused by missing car insurance payments. He was taken to jail, where he spent 22 days before pleading guilty to a 2nd-degree misdemeanor and was given time served.

While in jail, he missed two car payments, causing his car to be repossessed and leaving him with nowhere to go. One of the jail guards suggested he come to Rescue Outreach Mission.

“Like Patrick, too often, people experience homelessness after a series of events that just continue to dig their hole deeper and deeper until they just don’t have any other solution,” says Chris Ham, executive director, Rescue Outreach Mission.

The past few months have been extremely difficult for Patrick, who, at 58, thought he had “seen it all.”

“All the people you think you banked time with over your lives all disappear when you are homeless,” Patrick says. “I’m in isolation mode, just trying to survive right now.”

He viewed his experience at Rescue Outreach Mission as a learning experience.

“Everyone is here, and by that I mean every nationality, every age group, every social setting is staying here,” Patrick says. “And the staff here is amazing.”

Since coming to Rescue Outreach Mission, he found a job with The Father’s Table and is actively looking to move into an apartment near his job.

“They took me in and gave me a job – it’s truly a Godsend,” Patrick says. “I’ll be at The Father’s Table until I’m 114. It’s my life, my salvation.”

For the other guests and for people who might be experiencing homelessness, Patrick’s advice is to not give up.

“I seriously thought about suicide because of the lack of control I have over my life, but no matter how bleak it is, you just can’t give up,” Patrick says. “I now have a smile on my face, finding love again and listening to music again, which brings me great peace and solitude.”

Peter Canty

For the past few months, when visitors came to Rescue Outreach Mission, they would see Peter Canty sitting on the sidewalk, reading his bible. It brings him comfort and through all the problems that have come throughout for Peter, he always believes God is putting him through it for a reason.

He says God brought him to Rescue Outreach Mission too.

“They have done more for me than anyone in Orlando,” Peter says. “These guys are phenomenal.”

This month, Peter left Central Florida to start a new job in Alabama. It’s part of a program that Rescue Outreach Mission works with to provide jobs and housing for its guests. Peter will provide maintenance work for the apartment complex where he will live.

Peter’s life has always been nomadic. As a teenager, he dropped out of school and hitchhiked across the country. He spent time in the Keys building bridges with his brother. He traveled back and forth between Florida and his childhood home in Waltham, Mass. working construction with his family.

He’s worked as a cook. He’s built houses. He’s rebuilt motorcycles.

It all fell apart a few years ago and he ended up in a shelter in New England and, after a particularly brutal snowstorm, he bought a bus pass and came to Orlando.

“An hour in a half after I landed, I was hired that night as a cook, but I couldn’t find a place to live and had to leave the job,” Peter says. “I went to downtown Orlando and I spent a lot of time bouncing around the triangle of shelters there.”

He finally ended up at Rescue Outreach Mission. The case management team worked to secure a replacement birth certificate. They helped Peter with his SNAP benefits.

His story also shows how many organizations and non-profits are helping people like Peter. Through its work with Christian Tech Center, Peter received a laptop to help him with benefits and other needs.

The team connected Peter with Entryway, a national organization that works with real estate companies to provide jobs and housing. Entryway started Peter in a work program in Cocoa.

That program may have saved his life.

Shortly after working, he became very sick and he ended up in the hospital for a week, helping him fix a medical issue he’s had most of his life. The job, however, was filled with another person.

Of course, that didn’t deter Peter. Entryway found him another live/work program and arranged for him to start the first of May in Alabama.

“When they focus on you, they will give you the chance you need,” Peter says. “This place is unbelievable.”

Ken Stone

It’s been a long journey for Ken Stone to get his life back on track.

A veteran of the United States Army and the National Guard, Stone has experienced homelessness off and on for more than 10 years. But after working with Rescue Outreach Mission, Stone feels he is on the right path.

“The people at Rescue Outreach Mission, like my case worker Clare, were utterly professional and I have nothing but good things to say about them,” Stone says. “I was there for two weeks, found a job and started developing skills that allow for a job that isn’t physical labor.”

The U.S. Army started him on his first career, working in automotive maintenance. That role led him to work with the National Guard in that capacity and in the Federal civil service in Haines City, near where he had been raised.

At the time, he was truly a self-starter. When a recruiter came to the facility from AM General, Stone went to Barnes & Noble and bought a book about how to write a great resume. He bought an old computer and printer for $200.

He got the job and spent the next decade traveling the world working on AM General’s Humvees (military trucks). He was married in Thailand, but a few failed business ventures tapped out his savings and he returned to the United States.

“I was really down on my luck at the time,” Stone says.

He went to live with his aging aunt in rural southern Georgia and tried to find a job. He moved to Savannah to find a job, but eventually returned to Central Florida.

Rescue Outreach Mission was the third shelter he had tried.

“We all think it is horrible for any veteran to experience homelessness, we know it is a significant problem for any community,” says Chris Ham, executive director of Rescue Outreach Mission. “Many veterans just don’t know all of the resources that are available and one of our goals with any veterans is to ensure they are using their resources as much as possible.”

Rescue Outreach Mission was the first to share with Stone the resources available to veterans who are experiencing homelessness. They helped Stone receive his DD214 and then referred him to Veteran Affairs for Support Services for Veteran Families’ housing services.

“I never would have known about the SSVF program, which is really helping me to further establish my feet back on the ground,” Stone says. “Rescue Outreach Mission did a wonderful job getting me back to being a productive member of society.”

One of the other services of Rescue Outreach Mission that helped Stone is the partnership with Rusty’s Bicycle Recycle to provide bicycles to its guests. In 2023, Rusty’s refurbished more than 2,000 abandoned bicycles and provided them to people experiencing homelessness throughout Central Florida.

“Between a bicycle and a bus, you can get all over Sanford fairly quickly and there are jobs all over Sanford,” he says. “Plus, the Sanford SunRail Station is roughly 1.5 miles away, so you can get a job in Longwood or Maitland or Debary and Rescue Outreach Mission will get you a bicycle.”

Today, Stone is working for a water softener company and is living in an apartment through the Veterans Administration’s programs. Stone says having a job is truly key for anyone experiencing homelessness.

“I hope the guys understand that they have to go get a job and that it doesn’t matter what you get paid – you need a job so you can start putting money in your pocket and showing your work ethic,” he says. “The key is to stop feeling like the world is against you. Once you get a job, things start to fall into place.”

Pastor Diamond Alexander

Far too many people in Central Florida don’t have an opportunity for redemption, an opportunity to turn their lives around, an opportunity to escape the demons that chase them. 

For Pastor Diamond Alexander, Rescue Outreach Mission provided that opportunity and in January, he found a home after spending time at the shelter  

It was the first time I was homeless, and it took a lot of swallowing the pride I had,” Alexander says. “I knew I needed somewhere I could clear my head and start over again. After talking to the case managers, I came in seeking the help I needed.”  

Getting to that point, where he could swallow that pride was not easy for a man who is an ordained pastor, college basketball player and a martial arts competitor. He was born and raised in Orlando, and despite his success, the Paramore neighborhood caught up with Alexander 

“I got involved in the wrong stuff and the wrong people, doing drugs and selling drugs and working for some of the worst people in Orlando,” he says. “God gave me the call in 2007 and from that point on, it was more up than down.” 

In 2014, feeling the pressure to leave the path of redemption he was on, he moved his family to Seminole County. After a divorce, he moved in with family members, but they were involved in dealing drugs. He didn’t have a place to go, but he knew he couldn’t stay there.  

He came to Rescue Outreach Mission – the only option he had. 

“I loved their program and volunteered in the kitchen as I had worked as a sous-chef at one time in my life,” Alexander says.  

And while he certainly appreciated the help, he wants to make sure he never spends the night there again. 

Working with Rescue Outreach Mission, he was able to find a studio apartment in Altamonte Springs. He’s actively interviewing for jobs, willing to work in any capacity to make sure he doesn’t lose his apartment. He’s trying to save any money he can to get a car, so he doesn’t need to rely on the bus system and to start going back to his church in DeLand. 

I trust God,” Alexander says. “He’s my alpha and my maker, he won’t forsake me even though this test of my faith. 

Pastor Diamond Alexander