Matthew and his three siblings were born in Seoul, Korea to drug addicted parents. Life was always very difficult but things hit an all-time low one day when their parents dropped the children off under a bridge and left them there. Matthew’s older brother cared for the three younger siblings until they became wards of a Korean orphanage. Eventually, an American couple adopted Matthew and his older brother and the boys moved with their new parents to Maryland.
When he was 13, Matthew’s adoptive mother had a heart attack and passed away. Three years later, lost his adoptive father died as well. Matthew and his brother took to the streets and slept at night in homeless shelters. The brothers spent several years crisscrossing the country, from California to Florida.
After some time, Matthew grew road-weary and decided wanted to go to Bradenton to meet up with some friends he had met in Miami. Matthew did just that but ended up sleeping on park benches, around railroad tracks, and on busses. His meals came from local soup kitchens. Matthew frequently got in trouble for loitering until one day a County Sheriff’s officer referred him to Turning Points.
Matthew learned that Goodwill operated a Job Connection office at Turning Points. He wanted to get a job but had a lot of trouble applying for work. He had no form of ID other than an uncertified copy of his naturalization paperwork and no employer would accept it as identification. The Turning Points staff referred him to Kathy in the Goodwill Job Connection and she began to assist Matthew with employment services. Kathy started by working with Matthew on a housing voucher through the ESG program at Turning Points. In less than a week, Matthew was able to move into his own apartment. Kathy also helped Matthew apply for food stamps and soon they began the work of getting Matthew a valid form of ID so he could get a job. The food stamps were easy, but the valid State ID took many weeks of communication between Manatee County DMV and the State of Florida DMV, setting up appointments at the DMV, processing fees; plus the cost of tracking down and obtaining a birth certificate and adoption paperwork from Maryland. After nine weeks of hard work and sheer determination, Matthew came back into the Job Connection office with a big smile on his face. He had received a State of Florida ID from Tallahassee.
Now, it was time to find a job. Kathy had identified sixteen employers on Cortez Road - near Matthew’s new apartment - who were hiring. She suggested that Matthew work his way west on Cortez Road and stop in to apply at all the businesses with a “Now Hiring” sign displayed in the window. Matthew complied. The next day Matthew came in to report that he was working as a dishwasher at a Thai restaurant. Now, Matthew is looking for a second job where he can work in the morning hours too.
Matthew is so excited to have his own apartment and, at long last, to be working. He is determined to achieve his plan of going back to school so he can have not just a job but also a career.
Sometimes others respond to homeless people by shoo-ing them away or by criminalizing them. At Goodwill, we provide a hand up, not a hand out. Matthew is glad that hand up was there when he needed it. It’s what we do...