At the age of 16, I had survived two conversion camps, four suicide attempts and an exorcism just cause I was gay and successfully proved to the court that my father and his religious practices on me where inhuman. My emancipation was filed I was free to be me, Wrong living in a small town that circles around his church you can never truly be free, A man in the church residing in Atlanta offered me a place to get on my feet. Now 24, I get to Atlanta after refusing to sleep with him, I found myself and my things in Piedmont Park. Nothing like seeing snow for the first time waking up covered in it. After two days I had made a Grindr in hopes to find a warm place after I was raped by three men. I gained the mindset they’re gonna take it anyway might as well get paid for it so I began escorting that led to drug use.

Now back in Piedmont park. 20 degrees, a man told me of a place that helps people in situations like mine and he would even give me a ride. I agreed, I remember thinking this old man is just trying to get laid. Lucky for me that wasn’t the case. Brittany, current co-director, conducted my intake and I was on my way to the house. That is a feeling I hope to find again some day…

I stayed for three months and saved $6,000. Me and a friend went in half on a condo. Got everything set up positioned just right eager to live my life, so I thought. Not even a month later, I was woke up at 4am surrounded by fire. I was rushed to the hospital with a critical injury. When I woke up, I was told there is nothing to go home to. I called the only person I could. Rick Westbrook once again put shoes on my feet and clothes on my back.

Current: Diagnosed HIV+ and having trouble coming to terms with it. Rick Westbrook seen me struggling and stepped in and got me put on meds. PERSONALLY now I’m undetectable, with everything I own in a storage unit, couch surfing (when I can), there are more youth than beds and a waiting list.

So over your holiday weekend think of the youth sleeping in storage units, trains, and any other nook they can find if they can find one at all.

I owe so much to this wonderful organization including the very breath I just took. When I feel I have no fight left there Rick is. When I need clean clothes for an interview there Rick is. Or if I need someone to talk to there Rick is. These streets get hard lucky for me.

I have had the privilege to know what it truly means to be a man.

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