Nine years of prayer and clean living has transformed Anthony Patilla. The present day, clean-cut 44 year old was at one time, living on the streets and abusing hard drugs.
“I got so high one night that it scared me,” Patilla said. “I started praying. I asked God to help me out, and I promised to get help.”
Patilla kept his word and enrolled in a yearlong Bible based recovery program. The program required him to give up his 12- year cocaine habit, and participate in daily prayer and Bible study. The experience brought new hope and transforming faith in Christ.
“I see people with addictions coming through the shelter every day,” Patilla said. “They’re a constant reminder that I can’t go back to the way I was.”
In addition to providing a daily evening meal to the hungry, clothing to the poor, and shelter to the homeless, Inner City Night Shelter provides case management to all program participants.
The shelter is a “safe haven” in the community says Executive Director Yvonne Pryor. Men like Anthony, are showing people that they don’t have to be hopelessly bound to addictions.
Patilla never imagined he’d be testifying about drug recovery. When he graduated from Beach High School in the early 1980’s, he was offered a basketball scholarship to a local college. He moved into the garage apartment at his family home and spent the summer celebrating with his friends, drinking beer and selling marijuana. It was not long before they were smoking up their supply.
“It took away my energy,” Patilla said. “I didn’t pursue the things I wanted to do.”
The scholarship was revoked, and Patilla started working and selling drugs to keep the parties going. Eventually, he and his friends started selling harder drugs and they sampled that supply as well.
“Before I knew it, I was 32 or 33, and I couldn’t make it to work because I had been up all night doing drugs. Then I was homeless, and my family didn’t want to deal with me,” he said.
Drugs to him to places he never thought he’d go- from trading company cars for drugs to sleepless nights on the porches of abandoned houses. But Patilla says he is now driven by a force more powerful than drugs.
Today, Patilla is clean, sober, housed and employed. He is a Peer Specialist for the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless and Inner City Night Shelter Inc.
My Wife Susan Hamilton, and I relocated to Georgia, from Michigan, in September 2015. We first arrived in Statesboro where we spent our last remaining funds on a house trailer that was unlivable because of the lack of Power, and running water. It was going to cost $500 to have power restored to the property, unfortunately we couldn't afford it.
After a few weeks we decided to move to Savannah. When we arrived, the first place we stopped was DFCS. After filling out tons of paperwork, they put us in contact with Inner City Night Shelter. Having no other alternative, we reluctantly went to the shelter. After doing an intake and a little orientation, we became residents of ICNS.
Days passed, then months passed, it was starting to feel hopeless, we were at the point where we had given up hope of ever being able to start a new beginning in the south. Dreams and aspirations were starting to fade, self-esteem was suffering, our marriage was suffering, then one day, Susan received a phone call from Kroger’s on Gwinnett. She had a job. We felt as though things were turning around for us, then her schedule came out, and it did not work with the rules of the shelter, so she had to give up that job. Again, we were distraught, depressed, humiliated and just very unhappy.
After weeks of relentless job hunting, she finally landed another job at Kroger’s on Mall Blvd. Happy day, schedule came out, and it worked with the shelter schedule. Fantastic, now all that is left is for me to get a job. After weeks of job hunting, interviews, and denials, I had no luck finding employment. Again, depression, humiliation, and embarrassment sat in. I was at my breaking point once again. After weeks of praying and hard work, I was called into the Executive Director's office, and at this point I knew that our time was ending at the shelter, I was under the impression that she was going to tell me that our time was up and she had to refer us to another shelter.
Sweaty palms, heart racing, nerves out of control, I entered her office, and she tells me to come in and have a seat. She shuts the door behind me, and I'm thinking, "Here we go, time for the dismissal." She asked how I was doing, and I told her, “Fine”, How are you?" I could tell that she knew I wasn't fine. So, Ms. Pryor, (Executive Director), told me that they were opening a new position at the shelter, Night Security, and she asked me if I was interested in the job. I was completely surprised, I couldn't hardly speak, after about 2 seconds of silence, I was able to get the words out, “yes, absolutely.”
I have been working there for a little over 4 months now, and I absolutely love it, I can't imagine doing anything else.
It has been a long, stressful journey, but I am so very thankful for Inner City Night Shelter, the staff members, and co-workers. They are truly a blessing.