One man’s journey out of homelessness
(Editor’s note: this story originally appeared in the Akron Area Eutopia Report.)
My name is Clyde Alan Hensley. I am proof that God is in the business of miracles. I drank myself into homelessness in 2009. I had burned every bridge and opportunity of redemption with family and friends. All I had left was an addiction, the clothes on my back and a guitar sitting at my sister’s house. I had nowhere to go except The Haven of Rest. I stayed there and learned to “fly a sign,” aka panhandle.
After drinking my way out of the Haven, I received a tent and some new found friends. I drank only out of necessity, to keep the shakes off. If I was without alcohol for five hours, I would get ill.
While out on the streets, I slept behind a funeral home, on a porch of an abandoned house, and under bridges when I was too intoxicated to get back home to my tent.
I would get up at 6 a.m., get sick and then go to the gas station and get a couple 24-ounce beers, chug them and fly a sign until noon, then take what I had and get another one or two to get me through until 6 p.m. At the end of the day, I would get my beer for the night, hiding my surplus for the night shakes, and a half a can to get me “right” for the walk in the morning. This was an everyday occurrence.
Salvation steps in
Then, late one spring, I had made my day’s wage and drank a bit more than the norm. People were giving me more money than usual, so I bought and drank more often. As I was walking the railroad tracks to get home, I saw some others from (homeless) camps near mine. We sat on the tracks drinking. I blacked out.
Next thing I know I heard ‘HEY BUDDY GET OFF THE TRACKS”! It was Jon Soza of The Salvation Army, out checking on the homeless. He pulled me off of the tracks a moment before the train would have struck me.
Soza tried and prayed every which way for me to get into the Adult Recovery Program (A.R.C.). It took five or more months before God broke me down and started what I call “The Journey”!
I arrived at detox at around 10:30 a.m. one morning. I had already flew my sign and made enough to get a couple drinks in behind the dumpster. I had every intention of going back, but the Lord had other plans.
In retrospect, I had a spiritual awakening.
I turned left and walked over to detox. I had been there before, but this time I knew I was either going to find a way to get sober through my Higher Power – Christ – or go back to the woods and die by mid-winter.
On Oct. 6, 2010 I transitioned from detox to the Salvation Army A.R.C. This is when the work began.
It took me three weeks to memorize my Social Security number. I was beat down, tired and thought there was nothing left to salvage, let alone repair.
Once I started to come out of the haze, I realized that God forgave me, so to stay sober I had to forgive myself. The program gave me tools to use in everyday situations and it watered a seed of faith that was one of the few things I had left.
Blessings pour out
After graduating the program on April 1, 2011, I was blessed with housing by Springtime of Hope, employed by The Salvation Army, and decided to make amends with a former employer. I soon began working for my former employer, Liberty Harley Davidson.
I am active in the Salvation Army Praise Team and Thursday night Men’s Bible Study. I recently recorded a Christian rock CD “From the Tent to the Tabernacle” and perform at local coffee houses. I have videos on YouTube and am currently writing again.
A new chapter of my life is beginning. I just got married to a wonderful woman who was homeless at the very same time I was. We are on a spiritual journey together. I am employed at Rubber City Harley-Davidson and I am able to edify Christ in music and the word.