From Homeless to Business Owner




Eddie Collins was the subject of my first newsletter feature when I started working at the Union Gospel Mission in January 2008. His story ran here in the Good News Northwest in March of that year. Eddie had arrived at the Menís Shelter a year earlier and was nearing the end of the recovery program.
That interview with Eddie six years ago reminded me of my own interview a few weeks earlier when I was applying to be the writer for UGM: I told Executive Director Phil Altmeyer I might not know much about homelessness, but I knew how to tell a story and I believed everyone had a story to tell. Eddie illustrated my point perfectly.
Eddie Collins is a musician, a painter, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend, a role model, and an enthusiastic lover of the Lord. He used to be a meth addict. He used to be homeless. But by the time I interviewed him, he had shed that identity.
"One of the big one-eighties I did in my program was to get rid of the old me and classifying myself as a junkie, not because I was still doing it but because I did it so I thought that was who I would always be." Eddie said that identity change came during a class on the book, Search for Significance by Robert McGee. "I did not walk out of that class a junkie."
When I met Eddie, he and his wife, Kim, were divorced but in the process of reconciliation. Later that year, after Eddie graduated from the recovery program, they got remarried. Eddie went to work for UGM as part of the maintenance team, and when the Center for Women & Children opened in Coeur díAlene, Eddie was hired as the facility coordinator.
While it was never part of his job description, Eddie became something of a poster boy for the Mission. In addition to the newsletter, Eddie and his family were featured at the annual banquet. Heís been on billboards, TV, radio and the featured subject of fundraising letters. On two separate occasions, he and Kim came to my church, Knox Presbyterian, to lead worship and share their testimonies.
Eddie has a huge heart of gratitude and has given sacrificially to the ministry that helped him leave the old Eddie behind and begin anew.
He and Kim, financially stable for the first time in their married lives, bought a house. And now, theyíre starting a business, Step Up Painting. Eddie is leaving the Mission and launching into a whole new venture.
"When I finished the program, I vowed I would never be a painter again." The painting business was tied to the old Eddie and held a lot of triggers. "Thereís so much baggage that comes with the paint crew. Theyíre not well respected. They donít take drug tests because if they did, there wouldnít be a crew, you know, that type of thing. Alcoholics and drug addicts seem to gravitate toward the paint crew because theyíre accepted there, and I just didnít want to jeopardize my recovery by going back into that."
As part of the maintenance team, however, Eddie had the opportunity to start painting again, and he embraced it. "I learned that I had a gift. Thereís a talent there. I actually had something that a lot of people donít, and I learned that I could do this in a way that would bless others.
"I donít want to be part of the paint trade problem; I want to be part of the paint trade rescue. I want to give guys a place to work where they know they can have a good, clean Christian environment. I see me opening this paint company as a ministry."
Another way Eddie sees God moving in this paint business is in giving him an opportunity to work with his youngest son, Sky. Sky is a musician, but like most musicians, the making money thing is a struggle. "I donít plan on Sky being a painter for the rest of his life, butÖhe wants to come up underneath me and learn the paint trade and work with me."
Eddie said he sees this as an opportunity to model a strong work ethic, something he didnít do when Sky was younger. "He didnít get to witness Dad get up and go to work every day. He didnít get to witness Dad come home beat tired every day. There was no example of what life is really like for most men.
"My hope and prayer is that he just gets to work side by side with me and see how his dad works, how his dad deals with the public, how his dad doesnít cuss, and how his dad gets up no matter what the day is like. If itís raining and youíre gonna get wet, youíre gonna get wet. Thatís what you signed up for. And so, I just want him to see those things and learn those things."
God is in the business of redeeming broken things. For Eddie, God is redeeming the paint trade, and God is redeeming the time he missed with his son.
"The thing I was afraid of is the very thing I feel God calling me to do."
Eddie is a licensed painting contractor in the state of Idaho. Contact him for interior and exterior jobs, drywall, texture and fine finishes: 208-641-9791 or eddie@Step-UpPainting.com or find him on Facebook.