Joe Gustafson didn’t look too comfortable in his plastic chair. His left arm hung motionless in a sling and his left eye was encircled with a painful-looking black and blue bruise. A bus hit him just four days earlier and it wasn’t the first time it had happened to the 33 year old.

Yet, he’d never been happier.

“I have been off the streets for 3.5 months,” he said. “It’s nice not getting kicked awake by police.”

Gustafson rode his bicycle from Vero Beach, Fla. to Clearwater in hopes of starting over. Instead, homelessness awaited. He relied on others for food and clothing. When he found The Refuge outreach church in Clearwater, things started to turn around.

“My mother, who is a retired federal judge, claims I’d be dead if I never met Shaun Powers,” he said, of the man who paid $50,000 of his own retirement money to purchase the old church building that became The Refuge. “He never turns anyone down.”

The Refuge helped line up housing for Gustafson and vouched for him to potential employers. He ended up getting a food packing job to become self-sufficient. It also changed the way he looked as spirituality.

“Five years ago, when I was a drug addict, I didn’t’ believe in God at all,” he said. “Now, I believe that God has a plan for me. I come here every day. I even skip work to come here.

“The Refuge renewed my faith. It’s not my time schedule. It’s the Lord’s.”

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