After enduring the dark and difficult side of life for more than 50 years, Geoff Walters found purpose at the Mission. Geoff’s personal growth, while serving honorably since October 2013, speaks to the reason the Mission exists. But, Honor is a word that would not easily attach to his life before the Mission.
Geoff grew up in Flint, Michigan, the sixth of eight children to a single mother. His father was never in the picture. Even working two jobs, his mother could not support her family. “When I was six my mother put me and my younger brother up for adoption.” The rejection and personal turmoil he suffered while living in 16 different foster homes left him mean, angry and rudderless.
By the age of 12 he’d been a regular smoker for two years. Geoff recalls he was “running wild in the streets, obnoxious and rebellious”. By 14, he was using heroin. By 18, he was in prison for burglary. And for the next 17 years, until 1990, Geoff was either in prison or on parole.
Geoff’s health has suffered as well. Fifty years of smoking has taken its toll. He was a cook for 43 years before COPD disabled him. “I cooked graveyard at the TA Truck Stop on Motel Blvd until emphysema made it impossible to continue. I came to the Mission because I was broke and sick.”
Geoff serves as Men’s Supervisor. In that role, people have come to know him as generous, tolerant, and a calming influence. People talk to him because they trust him. “I like helping people. I like my life at the Mission. I am content”.
His tough life has taught Geoff to be direct. “People complicate simple stuff. God has put me where He wants me to be. If I didn’t think so, I’d be somewhere else. When I leave the Mission, it will probably be feet first in a gurney.”
Life in a homeless shelter is stressful. And, though he’s available 24 hours a day, Geoff disappears at times to listen to God. Those quiet times give him peace. Randy Smith, Shelter Director and Geoff’s boss, says “Geoff has stress Teflon. Nothing bothers him.”
Geoff’s early, dark days stand in stark contrast to the light that now guides him and the light of his experience he shares with others at the Mission.