A better way to live: Shawne’s story
Shawne grew up in Chicago, one of two children born in a Christian family where the mother worked full-time and the father was an alcoholic. Shawne’s father abused him, especially when he was drunk. When he turned 16, Shawne ran away from home and never went back.
He started prostituting not long after he ran away from home. He was homeless and needed money, so he started selling himself out on Clark and Hubbard downtown. He felt guilt and shame about what he was doing, especially because of his Christian upbringing, but he also felt anger, pain, and hurt toward his family.
In 1993, Shawne met Emmaus Outreach staff for the first time. They gave him a card, but he didn’t take them seriously and he didn’t trust them. He was sure that, since they were Christians, they would judge him because of what he was doing. Eventually, after a couple years, he decided to come down to the Ministry Center and see how serious they were.
When he came down, he was stunned that the people there remembered him. “There you are, Shawne,” he remembers them saying. “You finally came down.” He waited for the sermon about his sinful lifestyle, but it never came.
When he first came down, Shawne remembers, the people at Emmaus “were just like ‘Hey, come on in. We know what you want. We know what you need. And we’re here for that.’” He ate a family-style meal with staff, volunteers, and the other guys there; he took a shower. Then he left, and so did his preconceptions about the Christians at Emmaus.
He started coming down more often and got to know the staff and volunteers. That’s when he started hearing the message that, as he puts it today, “There’s a better way to live.” But he didn’t mind it so much at that point. He knew the people there loved him.
“That’s the thing about Emmaus,” he says. “You don’t have to be homeless to get help. I’ve had a job and an apartment, and I’d still come around for their support, the spiritual support. And then when I’d fall, they weren’t like ‘You’re going to Hell! You failed.’ No. They accept you and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this all over again. What can we do for you?’”
Over the years, he admits, that there were several times he wanted to give up on life. When he was on the streets, running from his family and the hurt in his past, getting into cars with strangers and selling himself, he got tired of life. He wanted to give up, but he just couldn’t, and he freely admits that his not being able to give up came from God.
Shawne has struggled with health issues over the past several years, including two bouts with cancer. Through every step of the way, Emmaus has been with him. Emmaus has become a surrogate family for him. He’s often reluctant to accept help from his family, but he will always accept help from Emmaus. Today Shawne has his own apartment and works when his health permits. He volunteers regularly at the Ministry Center, helping other men make the transition he’s made. He’s been up in life and he’s been down, but through it all, he knows that he’s loved.