Housing for the People: “Forgiveness was a big eye-opener for me”

Black text on a yellow background reads: "Housing for the People, Stories from the Front Line"

By Darin Thomas

  • Lived experience
StreetZine, street paper, USA

In the latest instalment of INSP’s Housing for the People column, Darin Thomas, a participant in The Stewpot’s weekly Writers’ Workshop at Dallas, Texas street paper STREETZine, talks about coming to terms with the fact that he was not to blame for the trauma and violence he experienced as a young boy.

In 2021, I was sentenced to county jail for theft and possession of a controlled substance. After six months there, I was sent to Gateway Foundation in Lancaster, Texas.

The six months I spent at Gateway opened my eyes to new realities and how to live again. The experience showed me how to be a better person. I worked on having the power to change my life, how to be a man, and how to help others. Working with others helps me be stronger and do better in my choices.

I especially worked on learning how to forgive. Forgiveness was a big eye-opener for me. My father murdered my mother when he poured gasoline on her and shot her twice.

I was nine-years-old. I hated him for so many years. Therapists and counselors at Gateway helped me learn how to start forgiving him and others. I had to stop blaming myself and others for my mother’s death and what went wrong in my life.

I thought about these parts of my life while I was receiving treatment at other places. But the treatment at Gateway was best. The people I worked with taught me how to go deep into my soul. My fellow inmates and I learned how to share each other’s experiences. We talked about how to change our lives. I wouldn’t be where I am without my counselors.

Now, I am using the skill of learning to forgive to help other people think about what they have been through. I love giving people a chance to learn about what happened to me, about my mother’s death, and my father being sentenced to prison for 50 years for her murder.

I feel very good that I forgave my dad and other people who have harmed me. You have got to forgive people who harm and hurt you.

I have lived through a lot, but I know now how to move on. I love my brother and sisters for holding on. We all saw our mother’s death. We took it differently, but we stayed together, including when our oldest sister died last spring. Losing her was crazy because I didn’t expect her to die so young.

This is all about the power to do something different, including helping other people in their lives and making the world a better place. Sharing my experiences with others who have gone through something similar, and redirecting our lives, feels so good.

Darin Thomas stands at the foot of a staircase. His hair is braided and is wearing a black jacket, a grey t-shirt and a gold chain.

Credit: Jesse Hornbuckle

Now I watch what I eat and take better care of myself. I walk and exercise regularly. My health is good and I take my meds and treat my life more seriously.

Previously, my health problems were my death sentence. High blood pressure. Diabetes. I didn’t care anything about my health or myself. I had to want help.

One day, I thought: “I am slowly killing myself”. I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw: skin and bones. I saw I needed help. At one time, I didn’t care about taking my meds or eating right. I also was sick on drugs.

You can change, too. But don’t let it get too late. Take care of yourself so you can live longer. Watch what you eat. Stay focused on yourself. If you want help, it’s out there.

And believe you can get better. If people want help, they will get help. And if they don’t, they won’t.

Part of caring for myself is taking advantage of my new apartment. For the better part of a decade, I was without housing. I stayed with friends and family across Dallas. I slept on couches and sometimes on the streets. I kept things at my sister’s. It wasn’t cool.

My new apartment has a bedroom, living room, and nice kitchen. I feel joy about being in my own place again. Keeping my housing means everything to me. I want to live again.

This means having a job where I can pay my rent on time. It means keeping people out of the place who don’t belong there. And it means living my life well.

As 2023 unfolds, my new place, my new life, my new job and my relationship with God will allow me to keep living well.

Darin Thomas is a participant in The Stewpot’s weekly Writers’ Workshop in Dallas, Texas, and a contributor to the city’s street paper STREETZine.

Housing for the People is a column produced by the International Network of Street Papers from people on the frontlines of the housing justice movement in America and beyond.

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