Sometimes, perspective is everything. For Tom Church, living on the streets of Milwaukee changed not only how he sees homelessness – it changed his belief in people and service. Today, his happiest holiday moments happen when he brings his friends and family together to buy presents for low-income families through our Stuff a Stocking campaign.
Before homelessness, Tom’s life as a division manager for a sales department seemed unshakable. He was successful, independent, and at the top of his game. But just as is it with most of us, one or two speed bumps down can send you careening off what you thought was your path to happiness. For Tom, that speed bump involved addiction. Soon enough, Tom’s habits lost him his job, his home, and most of his relationships.
“It was miserable. I had the toughest time trying to find cash around the city to get loaded and find an empty place to sleep in winter.”
After a number of years on the streets, Tom did find hope – but he needed a little help. A number of social services throughout Milwaukee – including Heartland Alliance – that helped him find sobriety, healthcare, even a home. Tom recognized just how crucial it was for strangers to care about him – a concept that was solidified in his mind after a heart attack that left him clinically dead for almost an hour.
“If it weren’t for these people, I wouldn’t be here today. In every sense of the word, I have owe my life to people who didn’t give up on me.”
And so today, with a home and a future ahead of him, Tom is giving back. Tom is working with his friends and family to donate gifts and stuff stockings to two families at our Maskani Place housing program in Milwaukee.
“Ever since I got back on my own, I knew I had to give back. I’ve got a couple of extra bucks, and I know what it’s like when you have nothing. You’ve got to give back.”