People You Should Know: Andre

When I went to prison for armed robbery, certain people caught my attention because I knew them from the streets. They had changed. Now they were talking to me about God and about the Bible. “Whatever,” I told them. But to myself, I wondered: I have all this time on my hands. Maybe this can change me, too.

So I opened a Bible for the first time. I thought, Whatever I turn to, I’m going to read. And I happened to open to 1 Corinthians 13. All this time, I thought I knew what love was. I think I read that chapter about 50 times. Love is patient, love is kind, love keeps no records of wrongs.

Before that, my life was addiction, crime, homelessness — both in Chicago, where I grew up, and in Rockford, where I got into even bigger trouble. When I got out of prison, first I went home to Chicago, then to a halfway house, and then it seemed like God was telling me to come back to Rockford. So I did.

This was 2009. I needed a job, and jobs were hard to find — especially for someone with a record. My sister-in-law worked at Rockford Rescue Mission, and told me I should apply. I interviewed with Sherry Pitney, the CEO, and she said, “You’d be perfect.” That felt so good. I had so many doors slammed in my face. When Sherry believed in me when no one else would, it completely changed my life. Today I work with the men in the Mission’s Crisis Center, and Sherry was right. It’s a perfect fit.

I know what it’s like to be homeless and hungry. I know what it’s like to be in addiction. I know what it’s like when people turn their backs on me. So walking into this role, to be able to assist somebody else, is a privilege. I treasure it. I know exactly what they’re going through, because I lived it.