On the day Gabriel was celebrating 11 months of sobriety, he finished his morning shift on the trash crew and sat for an interview outside the Wear Gloves’ warehouse. Gabriel shared that he’s not originally from Ocala. He came here three years ago to help a friend but ended up getting arrested and is now on probation. He’s living in a local halfway house called Unity Place and has found himself surrounded by a tight-knit community for which he is incredibly grateful. “God has seen fit to open up doors to me that have been a blessing…as well as this place here.”
Recently, Gabriel had a minor stroke. Because of this, finding work has become difficult. “After this pandemic hit, I thought all doors were shut. I’m 54 years old and I’m starting to realize I’m not invincible anymore.” Now he works at Wear Gloves to pay his rent at Unity Place.
On the day we spoke, he had been there a month. About Wear Gloves, he said: “This place has been a blessing. I can’t say enough about Ken. I’m a believer that everything happens for a reason, and I’m on a path right now that I wouldn’t give up for anything. Not just my sobriety, but it’s just the way life is going for me right now. It’s peaceful. You know, I don’t have no worries. I pay my rent. I pay my phone bill. I have food. I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my stomach…I’m happy.”
Gabriel works with the trash crew, a job he enjoys. It allows him to interact with some of the homeless in Ocala. While he has a roof over his head now, Gabriel has been homeless in the past, and he can relate to some of the people he meets on the streets. “I’ve been where I was talked down to or cursed at. I don’t believe anybody, whether they’re homeless or not, should be talked to differently. You know what I mean? We’re all human beings. And whether we’re homeless or we have a million dollars, we should all be treated the same. It doesn’t really matter. And, of course, a lot of people aren’t fortunate. And some of them are maybe happy they way they are.”
He has encouraged others to make their way to Wear Gloves: “We’ve told plenty of people about Wear Gloves. We have handed out cards. You gotta make that step. You gotta make that decision if you want to change your life. No one can do it for you.” He emphasized that Ken and Wendy hold people accountable: “If he doesn’t see that you’re making an effort, he’s not going to put you on the schedule. You gotta make a commitment for yourself and not anybody else. You gotta want to change at some point in time.”
When asked if working for Wear Gloves is different from a typical job, he replied: “It’s more spiritual. It’s love. These people actually love you, unconditionally. They’re willing to help you. In this day and age, that’s hard to find. I’ve heard a little bit of their story. It’s phenomenal. And then to turn around and give this to people. They’re willing to help people out…the homeless or whoever may need it.”
When asked about his own plans for the future, Gabriel shared that he dreams about going back to college for counseling or social work. He has a heart to help others, and he seems quite determined to do that in every way he can. He credits the community at Unity Place and working at Wear Gloves for giving him the foundation from which he can not only help himself, but also find a way to help others.