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
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
Eddie has a huge heart of gratitude and has given sacrificially to
the ministry that helped him leave the old Eddie behind and begin
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