Lucas shared a turning point in his life that eventually led to his homelessness. “I used to be a professional gamer. I traveled the country and fell in love with somebody in Wisconsin. She was going to the University of Wisconsin La Crosse (UWL) at the time, so I moved to La Crosse. It didn’t work out and I got hooked on meth. My mom died and everything started to get really bad for me. I have been in La Crosse since 2015 and became homeless in October of 2016 after I lost my apartment. I have bounced in and out of homelssness since then. I would live out of one car until it got taken and then move to another car. I went down to my grandma and dad’s house in Florida twice, but came back. I was sober down there for six months, but then I got my hands on some meth.”
A typical day of an individual experiencing homelessness in the winter changed a lot in the last year. “[Before the pandemic] It wasn’t so bad being homeless in La Crosse. I would wake up from the Warming Center at seven in the morning and go down to the Salvation Army for breakfast. Then I would go to the library for a little while, head to the Hospitality House, then back to the Salvation Army for dinner. Finally, I would check back into the Warming Center. Now, the Hospitality House is closed, Salvation Army is on lock down, the Warming Center can only let so many people in, and you might be able to get into the library for an hour if you have a phone so you can call to be let in. A lot of people who are homeless though, do not have phone service. The city kind of just said ‘screw you, you can stay in the cold.’o”
Lucas holds true to personal responsibility and understanding how his addiction impacted his life. “For me, addiction is the hardest part about being homeless. Staying sober and the cycles of addiction made homelessness really challenging. I am big on personal responsibility and I blame myself for my addiction and my homelessness. Even if I left La Crosse, I know that the problem of myself would follow me.”
Offering hope of a brighter future, Lucas hopes to stay sober and continue his heart’s work. “I hope that for the future I can stay clean and keep housing. I have learned a lot from my very small group of friends and their desire for service work [with church and other avenues]. I love it and if all my true friends love it too, there has to be something to it. Service work is where real happiness comes from. I spend almost all my time doing service work, attending Church, and AA meetings. I think for other people that need help they should look into the local programs here. La Crosse has a lot to offer and so many churches. It would be sad and odd if a church doesn’t have some way to help.”
Authors’ Note: Lucas remains far from alone in his battles with addiction. We want to take a minute to share some current options available in the La Crosse area. If you, or someone you know suffers from addiction, reach out, ask for help, and remember the future. Hope exists even in darkest hours.
Artist’s Note: Lucas showed us his passion for gaming, Catholicism, and ultimately a deep love of service work. Lucas reminded us to look for hope, aim for recovery, and find a way to care for others.