No Place Like Home: Wesley’s Story
What would you do if you fell upon hard times?
Perhaps you dig into savings. When that runs out, maybe you reach out to family or friends.
What happens when those resources and relationships aren’t available?
Experiencing homelessness reflects broken systems, failed safety nets, and a severe level of disconnectedness.
As someone who was raised in foster care and lived on the streets for 29 years, Wesley Thomas endured those circumstances firsthand.
According to National Alliance to end homelessness, 1 in 4 youth who age out of foster care will experience homelessness.
In 1988, at age 27, Wesley found himself north of the White House in Lafayette Square Park with no home, no car, and no idea what he was about to do next. A stark difference from where his path was leading just a few years before.
Born in DC, Wesley overcame his early life hurdles and attended the University of the District of Columbia, and began his journey to become a veterinarian. “But I was naive,” Wesley admits. “I thought Disney was real life and that people were nice. They wouldn’t scheme on you or con you.” His education pursuits were sidetracked when friends introduced him to alcohol and hard drugs, which started his path toward homelessness.
“It was frightening,” Wesley said. “I had no clue where I was going to eat or sleep. But I’ve been fighting for myself all my life. I’m an orphan, raised in foster care. When I became homeless I made new friends, and they taught me the ropes, how to survive on the streets.” Wesley spent only a handful of nights in a shelter. He preferred sleeping outside in a sleeping bag, on a wool blanket, on cardboard, or on concrete.
For nearly three decades, Wesley relied on his survival skills as he moved throughout DC. He felt most at home in Washington Circle Park, where he said the students and teachers at George Washington were friendly. He was even invited to a few graduations.
The other perk was being close to Miriam’s Kitchen. “I was there when Miriam’s Kitchen first popped up over where the World Bank is at now.” He continued to attend meal service at Miriam’s as the organization evolved and moved to Western Presbyterian Church. Wesley enjoyed the coffee and food, but he more so enjoyed the community atmosphere at Miriam’s. “It was soothing. You can come in and get a cup of coffee, you can do artwork, you can relax. You have like two hours in this comfortable place where you feel like you belong.”
With the addition of our housing and street outreach programs over the past few years, Wesley observed how Miriam’s Kitchen went the extra mile to get friends like Randall Cook get housed. “I saw Lindsay [Director of Outreach] working with Randall. She got stuff done. I knew I could trust her.”
Lindsay helped Wesley move into his home, and he is celebrating one year of having a home to call his own. “I have a key to my own door. When I turn it and walk in, it brings me peace of my mind that I can leave any chaos outside.”
Today, Wesley remains active by volunteering at the Capital Area Food bank four times a week and participating as a co-chair of a local SMART Recovery group where he can mentor other adults who are recovering from addiction. When he’s not busy volunteering, he enjoys reading any book from his favorite author, Patricia Cornwell.
Generous supporters like you helped provide a safe place where Wesley could enjoy a delicious meal and eventually a home to call his own. Visit donate.miriamskitchen.org/morethanameal to find out how you can provide a helping hand to those in need this holiday season.