The homeless community bestowed Chris Dechick with the lovable nickname, ‘Lurch’ since he looks a little bit like the well-known movie character of the same name from the popular film, The Addams Family. Dechick is just happy to have found a community that cares enough to razz him a bit.

“It means a lot,” he said. “It’s saved me from doing a lot of what I used to do.”

What he used to do landed him in prison for a year. Cocaine possession put him behind bars in Clearwater. The homeless Dechick didn’t see much changing once he was set free.

“The old Chris was not a good person. Not a good person at all,” he said from the parking lot of The Refuge outreach church in Clearwater. “I just don’t want to go back to that type of stuff.”

Prison was especially painful for Dechick because his grandmother died two days before his release. The experience led him to want to make a change in his life. He found The Refuge outreach church and immediately felt at home.

“It helps me stay positive. It gives me a better outlook on life,” said Dechick, who has been clean and sober since his release from prison. “I come here I get more of a spiritual feeling. There is a lot of love between the people who work here and stuff. It’s more positive here than anything.”

The Refuge was started in 2016 by Shaun and Michele Powers. They needed help from the homeless to keep the church up and running during the day. Dechick was one of the first in line. He helps keep the kitchen in order and does “everything” else around the property, from cleaning to handing out clothes. The outreach church, for the homeless and run by the homeless, has provided Dechick and others with hope and path out of homeless situations.

“I didn’t think it was going to turn out like this. I thought I’d go back to the same old thing. I’m very happy it turned out like this,” he said. “I actually have hope now that something’s going to happen good for me and I actually can breathe without having negative stuff and doing negative types of life.”

To date, The Refuge has helped many of Clearwater’s 80-ish homeless population find housing and jobs.

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