Hello, my name is Christopher Sanders, and this is my story out of homelessness.
I’m a 40-year-old black man. I graduated from Hillside High School, class of ’95, and I am homeless. In recent years, I earned a decent income, had an apartment, and money to spare. Then one day, I lost it all by making a few wrong decisions. After losing my job, home, and friends, it became a daily hustle to survive. Living on the streets with different people is hard and sometimes unpleasant. My remaining friends and I developed a motto: “Trained to go, regardless of the situation.” It means that I can only move forward, not looking back, regardless of the situation.
After a period of time, my life began to change when I accepted a temporary job working with a small production company as a stage hand. My temporary assignment later grew from stage hand to assisting with stage lighting. I enjoyed my job as a lighting assistant and told myself that this would be my future job. However, I continued to be homeless even though I had a job. With a job, I could take care of myself a little better. So, at times I would live with relatives or have an occasional night sleeping at a motel.
Then, I saw an advertisement for a small production company seeking to hire people for its annual events and stage plays at Hillside High School. Some of the plays included the Black Nativity, The Color Purple, Miss Black USA Scholarship Pageant, and many more. I applied and was hired to assist with the lighting. I’m still homeless at this point, not knowing where I was going to sleep when I got off from work.
My life continued to improve. I later accepted a job at the DPAC as a Master Electrician for Lighting. I could not believe it – I am now working my dream job! But I was still homeless and my income was not enough to rent an apartment because I didn’t earn a salary of three times the rent for a one-bedroom in Durham.
My life really turned around for the better when Hurricane Michael hit. During Hurricane Michael I was living with a relative and the house became flooded. My relative was able to move in with another relative but I was not allowed to live with them. I roamed the streets for hours until someone told me about the High Hill School shelter.
There at the shelter, I met staff from Housing for New Hope's Assertive Engagement team. After speaking with the staff, I enrolled into their program. The Assertive Engagement staff identified a boarding house for me to stay at where I could clean up, rest, and eat regularly. After several meetings and appointments, I got approved for a Housing Choice Voucher from the Durham Housing Authority. I continued to work with Assertive Engagement, and now I work with Housing for New Hope's Rapid Rehousing team to search for permanent housing.
Despite the many changes in my life, my most memorable moment and greatest achievement was working on the play “The Color Purple” as the lighting assistant. During that time, I got the opportunity to meet actors Danny Glover and Margaret Avery. They noted that this was their first time ever attending a production of “The Color Purple” in a local community. They said it was the best production produced by high school students. I will always remember the starstruck excitement I felt during that night.