Brandon Burrell is 35 years old. He lives and works in Richmond, VA after successfully completing an inpatient rehabilitation program a year ago.
I first found out about HELP when I was 21 or 22. I had been living with my mom, and I was selling drugs. When she found weed in the house, she kicked me out. So I was bouncing from one place to another, staying with different friends. I was bouncing from job to job, too. I didn’t have any skills for a job that paid enough for me to get my own place. I was selling and using drugs, and drinking heavily. As a young man, I already felt like I was at a dead end.
My mom took me to the (A Night’s Welcome) shelter one day. That was my first experience with HELP. When I could pass the breathalyzer, which you had to do in order to stay there, then I’d have a place for the night. I didn’t stay every night, though. I wasn’t interested in stopping drugs or alcohol at that time in my life– I was just trying to get a job that paid enough to get me out of my situation. Also, I felt like as a homeless person I was looked down upon, just part of a herd of sheep that moved from one place to another. I was a loner, and didn’t want to impose on anyone, but also felt like there was no one who really cared too much about me as a person.
I went to the shelter on and off for 11 years. I was in survival mode for a long time. It took about two years before I started to utilize the services that HELP had to offer, like assistance with finding work. I still preferred to be on my own, though, and often stayed outside even when the shelter was open. I met Matt (HELP’s Executive Director) around that time. He is nonjudgmental. He used to drive around to find me if I hadn’t been at the shelter for a while, and would check in on me. He’d let me know what was going on at HELP and made me feel like he cared about me as a person. He knew where I stayed and would just make it a point to come by and keep me in the loop on whatever was happening.
Eventually, my circumstances caught up with me and I served time in jail. As part of my probation agreement, I had to either find a job and housing for myself, or enter a rehabilitation program. I had no problem finding work, but getting a place to stay was another issue altogether… so I said yes to inpatient treatment. I moved to Richmond and that’s where I am now. I work full time, have a few side jobs, and have an apartment. I see the same kinds of triggers here that I saw in Hampton, though, and know that I don’t want to stay here long-term. I don’t want those triggers to take me back to where I was before. I’m looking to the future, thinking about what I want to do next, where I want to live, what I’ll do for work. I don’t want to go back to the way my life was before I went to HELP. I’m moving forward.