Andre’s Story: “From the Sidewalk to My Own Apartment”
Last Updated: 17 Nov 2022
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Everyone has a story. For Endeavors Supportive Housing client Andre Dixon, it has included love, loss, addiction, and (finally) healing and recovery.
“Nobody wakes up and says, ‘Hey, I wanna be a homeless guy,’” said Endeavors Supportive Housing client Andre Dixon. “If someone is on the streets, they have some kind of story.”
For Andre, the future had always looked fairly bright. As a young man, he served in the Marines, eventually climbing to the rank of captain. When he decided to transition into civilian life, he pursued his secondary education at A&M University in College Station, Texas, graduating with a double major in biology and chemistry. Soon after, he began teaching high school in Houston.
Andre also had a family that he loved very much. His wife and children were the greatest joys of his life, and he lived a fairly normal life with them for many years. So when his wife passed away unexpectedly, Andre was devastated. He felt haunted by an unshakable darkness that wouldn’t leave. “I just didn’t care about living,” he said. “Words can’t describe the pain that you feel when you lose somebody that meant more to you than you mean to yourself.”
The next 15 years of his life were spent in total darkness. He turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the grief. “I didn’t work. I didn’t care about anything. I just began to do whatever I needed to do to get rid of the pain.” But these were only temporary fixes. Eventually, this lifestyle caught up to Andre and he found himself on the streets.
“I was homeless. I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t have any money. All I had was clothes on my back at that time.” Eventually, he was sentenced to jail for several years on drug charges.
A New Lease on Life
Andre’s time in incarceration gave him a lot of time to think, and he began to reflect on the way his life had taken a turn. “I made up my mind,” he said. “I wanted to come back to God and start acting right. I knew that would require a lot of change—a whole new way of thinking and living. It required a whole new change of heart about everything.”
He remembers seeing a flier for Endeavors when he was serving time. He scribbled down the number on a piece of paper and kept it with him.
When he was released from jail on a February morning, he knew he needed help to turn his life around. “All I had was a shirt and a pair of pants. I remember it was cold, the coldest San Antonio had been in years.” He went straight to Haven for Hope and used the phone to call Endeavors.
“The first chance I got to a phone, I dialed the Endeavors number and got connected to my intake specialist, Cindy.”
Connecting With Endeavors
Cindy connected Andre with his case manager, Juliana, and the two of them took the time to assess what Andre needed in order to succeed in the world, starting with housing. For Andre, the list was long and felt overwhelming. He wondered if he really could reach his goal of a self-sustained, independent life. But they traversed it together, one step at a time.
“I would check things off the list and, as I checked them off, I started looking and all my little boxes that were empty were now getting filled. It gave me a sense of accomplishment,” said Andre. “I realized I had to really want it more than anything else.”
Finding housing proved to be a challenge, given his criminal history. But he kept using the mindset he had established: keep going, one small step at a time. “Each time I was denied, I reminded myself of my goals. And then the no’s didn’t mean anything. I would just scratch it off and go to the next one.”
Finally, Juliana and Andre found a property that was willing to take him in and provide employment. Andre became a property manager, a job he is thriving in to this day.
“I went from totally on the street with a shirt and pair of pants and zero money in my pocket to an apartment in two and a half months,” he said. And he doesn’t take any of it for granted.
“It made me realize that people really do care, and that touched me. I’m very grateful because [Endeavors] employees are not the ones sitting in an ivory tower talking about making a change. They’re the ones that are out there hitting the streets every day.”
One Step at a Time
Though it was difficult at times, Andre looks back with a fuller understanding that the hard work he put in was worth it.
“From the sidewalk to my apartment, I look back at the whole process and see the big picture,” he said. “I look at it like a jigsaw puzzle: when you first dump all the pieces out the box, it’s just a mess. But as you start putting the pieces together, the picture becomes clearer and clearer to us at the end. It’s beautiful.”
He says that, though at many points he felt like he had wasted his life, he looks back and realizes: He wouldn’t be the person he is now without all the things he went through.
“If you’re going through it, you’re not lost,” Andre said. “You can be on your way to a better story. No matter what condition you are in, no matter what you’re doing, there’s help if you want it.”
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.