Campus of Change

Ending Homelessness in the Fox Valley

An Insider’s Look at COTS

Posted on Aug 26, 2014 by

Written by a resident in COTS’ Living Debt Free Program
Before coming to COTS, I had just spent a year in prison for an OWI. Upon release, I had no place to go so I was put in transitional living quarters that the Probation and Parole Department provide.  I had nothing. No clothes, no furniture. It was very rough for a couple of weeks.

I heard about the COTS Men’s Program from one of the paroles where I was living. I called and checked into COTS and felt that this was a place that I could benefit from. COTS offered food, a bed and some structure that I felt I needed in my life. They offered living skills, like Financial Peace University and RentSmart. They also encouraged healthy activities for living sober, like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

I have been at COTS for 2 ½ years.  In those 2 ½ years, COTS has supported me through the deaths of friends. They have provided me transportation to and from work when my car had broken down. They have worked with me when my expenses, like car repairs, took all of my money. They have provided me with clothes vouchers and Christmas presents at a time in my life when I felt like no one cared.

Since coming to COTS, I have gone back to school to accomplish something I have never had in my life. I was a high school dropout. If everything goes well, this spring I will earn my two-year diploma for Industrial Metal Fabrication and Welding. COTS provided me with a tutor from Lawrence University who helped me achieve a B in math for the trades. I have been on the Dean’s List for two years.

In the last six months, I have been moved out of the COTS Men’s Program and into the Living Debt Free Program here at COTS. This program helps me keep a budget that focuses on getting all of my debt paid off while keeping my current expenses up to date.  I am also a mentor here at COTS for the younger men.  I try to show them responsible behavior by doing my chores and helping out where needed.  I’m also a listening ear when they need one.

What I have learned here at COTS is financial responsibility, as well as dealing with life on life’s terms. I have learned that there are people out there, when you are at the lowest point in your life and have nothing, that do care and want to see you succeed.

COTS has showed me kindness and love when I felt like I was going to be another statistic. I know that my choices are my own, and no one can change them but me.  But I am certain that COTS is a big reason that I am a better person at this point in my life.

My plans for the future are to finish college, get my own apartment and give back to the community.