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Pallet employee Josh thought the life he has today was out of reach

April 6, 2021

Several years ago Josh was sleeping in his car in the back of a store parking lot, but now he's a Pallet manufacturing specialist.

Josh works on a Pallet shelter. Photo by Joe Tobiason

Josh works on a Pallet shelter. Photo by Joe Tobiason

On a recent sunny spring weekend, Josh and his fiancée exchanged I do's in an outdoor ceremony. The two pledged to be life partners in front of a small group of friends and family. The joyous occasion marked a milestone for Josh he would not have predicted for himself. Several years ago, he was sleeping in his car in the back of a store parking lot. Today he maintains a full-time job here at Pallet, mended fractured personal relationships, and tries to lead by example.

"If you told me almost eight years ago when I got clean, that this is where my life would be, I would not have believed you," Josh shared. "I wouldn't believe you, that I have been with the company for almost four years. I wouldn't believe you, that a woman is head over heels for me and wants to marry me."

Josh is grateful for being able to shift the direction of his life. As a second chance employer, his arrest record and past with substance use didn't matter to Pallet. He had construction skills and a strong desire to be a part of an unsheltered homelessness solution. Along with all our employees, Josh earns a livable wage and receives benefits, including a 401k plan. He was one of the first people to join the Pallet team. Josh works in the factory, constructing shelter panels that we ship out to various cities across the country. Building shelter for people experiencing homelessness is personal because he was homeless for five years.

"The past four years have been the best thing in my life. I wouldn't change any of this because I'm building shelter for people that don't have one," Josh said. "We're doing what we're talking about. We're trying to get everybody off the street, and that's all I care about."

“We’re doing what we’re talking about. We’re trying to get everybody off the street, and that’s all I care about.”

The Journey
Josh grew up in the Seattle area and is the middle child among seven children. He began using substances as a teenager. Within a few years, he got into trouble with law enforcement and began using harsher drugs. Thus, starting a cycle of using substances to self-medicate. He surrounded himself with people who were also engaging in the same activities. It was a downward spiral, "I started losing jobs left and right, being homeless. I started stealing from my family and stuff, and so they didn't want me in the house for years."

Even after moving on, one visceral memory remains — the scent inside his car when he lived in it.

"The window was broken out, and I had plastic on it and the smell of the mold and body odor. I'll never forget that in my life of how bad it smelled," Josh shared. "But I was so used to it; I was so used to being in the filth that it was OK."

Josh would eventually get rid of that car because he kept getting arrested for driving on a suspended license. A judge threatened him with a habitual offender charge which led him to the decision. Later, he sought help at Everett Gospel Mission, a nonprofit organization providing shelter and comprehensive recovery programs. Initially, he used it as a place to sleep while the counselors encouraged him to join a program. Josh thought he could quit at any time until he realized he had a problem.

"I finally broke down and went to the counselor, and I was like, look, I need to change something," Josh said. "I don't know what it is, but I need to change it."

It took a few starts and restarts, but with the Genesis program's help at Everett Gospel Mission, Josh finally began to stay on track.

Josh says he's always done construction work because he was good with hands. Since joining Pallet, Josh has improved his reading and writing skills with the assistance of Zane, Director of Engineering. One of Zane's techniques was having Josh write things down rather than relying on his memory.

"He was pushing me, and I don't think he realized how much he was affecting my life," Josh shared. "Helping me to encourage myself to just step forward and just keep on working on it and it'll come eventually."

The challenge has paid off outside of work as well. Josh is reading books now and isn’t relying on voice text.

Reflections
Ending homelessness is often framed as meeting physical needs — getting a roof over someone's head and into a stable environment. For Josh, it was more nuanced. First, he had to move out of his comfort zone and accept that it was time to take on responsibilities, such as paying bills on time. He also had to get past doubt and negative self-talk. He would say to himself that he would screw up again and that he wouldn't make it, so why even try.

"Trying to come out of it was the hardest thing I ever did in my life," Josh said. "It was even harder than quitting drugs."

“Trying to come out of it [homelessness] was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. It was even harder than quitting drugs.”

Doubts still creep up from time to time, but now he has the tools to combat them. One strategy is going through a list of five things he's grateful for, which centers him.

Josh uses his journey as a testimony to help others. His affable nature and positive attitude make him easy to talk to. He also tries to be a role model at work.

"I try and be that every single day because I don't know who's struggling, who's not. I don't know if somebody needs to be talked to, nothing. So I'm always having that open heart. Always. And I always will be, you know, for the newcomer or anybody struggling."

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