For Willie Jiles, the last 10 years have not been the most consistent, stable, or secure years of his life. Thankfully, as of recently, matters pertaining to significant aspects of his life have begun to improve for; although, to him, he still has some ways to go. As he reflects on his journey through the unpredictable terrain that is Homelessness, he cannot help but recognize his sustaining force. In our interview today, he made it very clear that it was one thing in particular that sustained him -- his faith in God.
“One of the things that kept me hopeful was that I always believed in God- a higher power- and at one time I used to pastor a church. I had been locked up for a while, but in there I did a lot of studying. I’m also a veteran of the United States Army. But, when I got out of the service I basically went to the streets. I didn’t really pursue “living” I just “hung out” and did my thing. I didn’t even ever collect my benefits. But I have 8 sons. Some of them encouraged me, they wanted to look up to their dad and not see me in that condition. I began to pick up the pieces, start checking out my benefits from the service; but I was on the streets for about 3 years before I even decided to get a check from the VA. I was out there druggin.’ But because of my background- having an encounter with God- that kept me positive at all times. I never looked down in situations, I was always lookin’ up because I knew there was something better. Plus, if you’re down you can’t go anywhere but up. So, as the years went on I kept diggin’ and diggin’ and things began to fall in place as I started asking God “What’s really goin’ on?” And I discovered that it was because of my rebellion that all these bad things were going on. I stopped trusting in God and started picking up all these different idols. I’ve also been dealing with my brother being homeless as well; he encouraged me also. I was married but she divorced me back in ‘94, yet even she was still such great encouragement. We’ve always been friends, so that helped me along the way also; she encouraged me. Although I’m from Springfield, I ended up coming up here cause my brother was up here. I stayed in a shelter for a while and they were very helpful. Then I got up here with Hwei-Ling and Amherst Connections and just began to pursue things. So I ended up pursuing my “VASH Voucher” so I started pursuing that. Then, come last week Friday, I’m getting my own apartment. I recognized God in that. It’s not much more than that; if you pursue things in a positive manner- things that are essential, that you need-- you gotta keep your foot to the plow. You have to use your resources. That was mainly what I was doing, that helped me along the way. If you want something, you have to keep pursuing. There’s a lot of negativity! I just decided that I was determined. What kind of legacy would I have been leaving my sons? That encouraged me to start somewhere. Along the way, I just kept believing and knowing there was something better. My focus now is maintaining what I now have. Thinking back will help me stay here. But I hold on to that faith thing, it’s big. Without faith it is impossible to please God. I know that He is able and I didn’t believe he has me here on Earth for nothing else. There’s more and that’s helping me move forward and continue to keep my foot on the plow.”
Needless to say, it was and will continue to be Willie’s faithfulness that provides him hope. Congratulations to Mr. Jiles for receiving the keys to his own home!