Class act: Formerly homeless college teacher turns life around

Feb 3, 2021

Suddenly, everything that John Peter Paul loved was gone. In the span of one year, he lost his job, his family, and his health. 

John had been teaching world history at Florida State University for 12 years. In 2016, he suffered several strokes and was forced to retire from his job. To make matters worse, his wife left him. 

“My life had fallen apart,” said John, a U.S. Marine Corp veteran who, at the time, had been sober for 10 years. 

To cope with the pain, John started drinking again. He would struggle with homelessness and addiction for the next four years. 

In August 2020, John hopped on a bus to St. Cloud, Minn. for a fresh start. Incredibly, he suffered another stroke right after he arrived in town. He was treated at a local hospital, where a nurse pointed him to the St. Cloud Salvation Army. 

From that point forward, John’s life began to change for the better. He enrolled in the St. Cloud Salvation Army’s “Grant and Per Diem” program for veterans, receiving three hot meals a day and a room of his own inside the St. Cloud Salvation Army’s 64-bed shelter. He began attending AA meetings regularly. 

A Salvation Army caseworker began helping John find an apartment he could afford to pay with his military and college pensions. They found one in December, and John was thrilled to move in. 

“To be homeless for as long as I had been, and now to have this apartment, is just amazing,” John said, choking back tears. “If not for The Salvation Army, I don’t know what would have happened to me.” 

Now that John has stabilized, he has set goals to be a regular volunteer and possibly get back into teaching. 

“I am happy now,” John said. “I have learned to never give up hope. If you give up, you miss the good things that are right around the corner.” 

Please join The Salvation Army in serving those in crisis by giving a donation or signing up to volunteer. Your help will provide emergency assistance and hope for people and families in desperate need.

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