Leaving Poverty

When Jose was in the third grade he moved into a room at Water Street Ministries also known as the Mission.  He didn’t want to be called “homeless” and he didn’t want to be called a “shelter kid”.  Those were some of the things he remembers.  Beyond that, Jose looks back on that year of eating, sleeping, and growing at the Mission with the feeling that it kept his family together. 

“We were always in poverty, but we never felt defeated,” recalls Jose.  His mom, his two sisters and two brothers, arrived at Water Street in 1989 after his dad was incarcerated.  During the day Jose would walk across the street to go to school.  It was hard, he says, because he didn’t want his classmates to know where he was living. 

His perfect plan was not for me to not have a dad growing up, but because of His mercy, grace and love God takes those moments and uses people as a vessel to share His journey.  God is about redeeming.

As an eight-year-old, living at a shelter was really difficult. It was important to Jose and his siblings to protect their dignity and to show others there was more to a person than their address.  In the evenings Jose remembers spending time in the Women’s Shelter with his family.  It was the best his mom could do at the time, and Jose knew it.  She let them know in simple ways.  One time she shared a chocolate bar by breaking off pieces until it was gone, but never taking her own piece.  Jose remembers little things like that when he thinks about his mom’s efforts to keep them fed and in safe shelter.

One of his third grade classmates invited Jose to Teen Haven, just a block away from Water Street Ministries.  This youth center was different than the others he had visited.  It was a place for kids to engage in programs that would equip them to be future leaders in their families and communities, while inviting them into a relationship with God.  Jose didn’t realize that invitation would change his life.

Jose looks back on his years growing up in the city and remembers having a safe place to go. “I had a place of refuge, a place to escape with basketball, overnight camps and the option to eat dinners at the home of a great Teen Haven staff member. There are some godly men at the youth center,” said Jose.  Eventually Jose and his family moved out of the Mission and began their new life at another address in Lancaster city—one they called home until Jose moved out after his high school graduation.

“We were always in poverty, but we never felt defeated,” recalls Jose.  His mom, his two sisters and two brothers, arrived at Water Street in 1989 after his dad was incarcerated.”

Today Jose is a husband, a father and a leader in Lancaster city as the Field Director at Teen Haven.  It’s the exact same youth center where he found acceptance and support in as a kid and then as a young adult.  Now, nearly two decades later, Jose gets to guide Lancaster’s next generation of teens to focus on their potential.  Jose looks back on his journey and humbly says it all began at the Mission.

“It all started as a journey from homelessness when I was eight years old, but there was an opportunity to walk through a door because God had a journey planned.  His perfect plan was not for me to not have a dad growing up, but because of His mercy, grace and love God takes those moments and uses people as a vessel to share His journey.  God is about redeeming.  There is nothing special about me; God had everything to do with my life.”