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The faces of Pinellas Hope

Building a sense of ownership

Ron Emanuel, 36, became what his mom told him he would be.

After years of arrogance, misbehavior, drug convictions and prison, he found himself sleeping under a bridge.

But that has changed, he says, since he entered a 12-step program last year and landed in Pinellas Hope.

Case managers helped him get an ID and prodded him to plan for his future. He landed a full-time job at a nearby auto body refinishing shop. Now his daily schedule makes him one of Pinellas Hope's busiest residents: Bike to work at 6:30 a.m. Take a bus to 12-step program in St. Petersburg. Back to Pinellas Hope at 11 p.m.

"By not paying rent, I am able to save money,'' Emanuel says. "It's a tent, but it's mine."

A slip on the way to recovery

Bruce Senesac, 53, was a telecom systems engineer, a runner and a husband.

But he spiraled down with drunkenness, living in the same socks 10 days straight without a job or a roof. He is trying to restart his life at Pinellas Hope since being admitted April 30.

Senesac had secretly slept in his estranged mother's back yard, or under overpasses. All the time, he says he tried to keep up appearances by reading tech books and showering at a shelter.

He volunteered weekly at Pasadena Community Church without others there knowing he was homeless. "They would say, 'Bruce, you are looking nice and tan, have you been playing golf?' I would say, 'Well, I've been outdoors a lot.' ''

On Friday, he was discharged from Pinellas Hope after he failed an alcohol test.

Fixing things helps fix him

Edward Hayes, 49, had a knack for trouble, landing in prison until last December for theft.

But he also has a knack for fixing things.

At Pinellas Hope, he's one of the bike guys, the men who fix bikes that are turned over to residents to help them get around.

Since arriving in February, he says, he's trying to put his hands — "a gift from the Lord" — to good use.

He started his own handyman service. He bought a white van and saved enough money to register it and get insurance. With his record and little money, however, a full-time job is tough to find. When he tried to go to college, he says, he tested at a third-grade reading level. But he says he's keeping faith.

"People used to hurt me a lot. … everybody, I just felt so bad," he says. "Since I got secure with the Lord, that self-pity left me."

The faces of Pinellas Hope 07/23/10 [Last modified: Monday, July 26, 2010 9:57am]
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