From homeless to a home of their own
Mike Curry spent years trying to find a place to call home and the right job to help him pay for it.
The Marine veteran served in Desert Shield during his more than three years in the corps. When he got out of the service, he worked in a series of careers, including video production, VCR repair, industrial technology and construction.
When he first started in construction, he said he didn't even know how to read a tape measure. Soon, he was supervising his own crew. Then he lost his job.
After his time in construction, Curry said, "it got rough."
He said he was homeless off and on from 2004 to 2012. His family's struggles to find a home will be among the stories featured tonight during the Sulzbacher Center's annual Transformations program.
Curry would take whatever jobs he could find during those eight years. Sometimes they were enough to allow him to rent a motel room. Other times, he'd sleep outside the labor pool. On nights the labor pool van's doors were open, he'd sleep in the van.
For a while, he slept in a tent in the woods. Because he couldn't find a job during that time, he got himself a cooler and walked up and down the beach, selling water. He made enough to buy a little barbecue and an ice chest that could keep meat cold for a couple of days.
Finally, he found a job with a structural company. "It was a good job," he said. "There was room for advancement."
There was hope.
But health problems, including a degenerative disc and plantar fasciitis, forced him to leave the job after just a couple of months.
Along the way, he met his wife, Shannon, and they had their first son, Malachi, who is now 2. At times, when they didn't have a place to live together, she would stay at a friend's house and he would find other places to sleep.
Then they found the Sulzbacher Center and their luck began to change.
They had a bed to sleep in, food to eat and classes to learn about computers, parenting and money management. They also found out Shannon was carrying their second son, Mason, who is now 8 months old.
Curry found a job at Home Depot, which ultimately turned out to be more than just a job. It turned out to be a way to help them acquire a home.
The family received a grant through Home Depot to help with the first month's and utilities. The call from his Home Depot supervisor was very emotional, Curry said.
"She was crying, I was crying," he said.
Now they live in home in North Jacksonville, with a yard for the boys, a quiet place to eat dinner together and a living room with a television.
The dining room is Shannon's favorite place. "We get to eat in peace," she said.
For her husband, it's the living room, especially on Sundays. He likes to put his feet up, watch football on television and play with his boys.
Normal things for families to do in a home.