The subject of the feature in the paper this week is a guy named Holy Diver who I met riding his bike up Alberta a few months ago. I've been working on the story for a while and it's strange to see it in print now because the situation has changed a lot since I began reporting. When I was hanging out with Diver in November, he was living at a Christian commune in North Portland run by a progressive pastor named Steve who wanted to provide some of his parishioners a place to sleep besides the street. More than that, Steve's house was trying to be a supportive, clean, liberal community to help homeless people get off drugs and alcohol. Creating a strong community of clean friends is key to helping guys like Diver. Here's a quote that didn't make it into the final article:
Cleaning up and turning Christian hasn't been easy. It meant leaving behind a tight-knit community of like-minded vagrants, who still live in camps in Gresham where cops are less likely to move them along. "Out there, I'm like a celebrity, kind of," Diver laments, "There's that sense of love and camaraderie I never had growing up until I became part of this homeless community."
So during the time I spent with him, Diver was genuinely excited about his clean-living lifestyle, his new found faith in God and the luxurious availability of showers and an indoor bathroom at the house. He was linked up to email, helped care for friends with the items he found in dumpsters and and even took up commenting on our site. When I stopped by the house in late November to take some more photos, Pastor Steve answered the door and said Diver hadn't been back since he last went out riding around town with me. That meant Diver was back into the addiction cycle, back out in Gresham and back to the homeless life. I was afraid he'd dropped off the face of the known world but, lo and behold, Matt and I ran into Diver while attending Pastor Steve's shower ministry in Gresham a few weeks later. He's physically fine, but, yes, back into the life he was once enthusiastic about leaving behind.
To me, reporting this story really hit home that real life addiction stories are not the uplifting stuff of Lifetime specials. Getting out of a lifestyle built around addiction is complicated, rarely goes according to plan and remains hard for peoples' entire lives — even if they have God on their side. I'm pulling for Diver and people like him to have the kind of life they want but, honestly, reporting this story has made me I question if thats sometimes just impossible.