Hardworking but Homeless
In the 37 years since he joined the Navy out of high school, Jody
Littleford has worked. Hard.
Launching and landing aircraft on a carrier. Loading, driving and
unloading trucks. Building displays. Construction. Electrical work.
Plumbing. Fiberglass repair on boats. All physically taxing jobs.
Jody didn’t mind that. “I love working, actually.”
But the most important thing to Jody was to be there for his young
daughter. So when she moved with her mother to Spokane, he had no
hesitation about dropping everything.
“I promised her when she was 10 days old that I wouldn’t leave her
side until she at least graduated. So I moved here and sold my house.”
But that was in 2001, and jobs weren’t plentiful. Jody was living out
of his car while he looked for work, but nine months went by and he
still couldn’t land a job. Finally, it got too cold: Jody stayed at
the Union Gospel Mission for two months and soon got a job and his own
Jody continued to work hard, and more than a decade passed before the
pains started in his legs.
“Being the stubborn male that I am, I didn’t say nothing of them. The
weekend passes and the ankle goes back to normal and you go back to
Then his chest started to hurt. Finally, it was just too much. “Every
time I breathed, it felt like a sword going through me.” He called a
friend to take him to the hospital.
The news wasn’t good. Doctors said Jody had large blood clots in his
legs and his lungs, and he was fortunate not to have suffered a
massive heart attack.
“If you’d waited one more week, you probably wouldn’t be with us,”
they told him.
Jody spent a week in the hospital. The doctors put him on blood
thinners and told him to forget about going back to work if he wanted
to stay alive. For Jody, no work meant no home.
“It just devastated me to lose my job,” he says. “I had zero savings
to fall back on. I had one child I needed to help raise. I was paying
child support on top of that, and there’s not a lot left at the end of
two weeks. It goes to bills, food, child, life. … In one week’s time I
lost my job, my home. My whole world collapsed in on me and I had
nowhere to go.”
Unable to work, Jody applied for disability benefits. His application
has been stuck in the courts for months, waiting for a judge to review
it. Without any family in the area other than his teenage daughter, he
could only think of one place to go while he waited.
“I’m high-risk for stroke and heart attack, and if I had to live under
a tree, I would probably not be here. The Union Gospel Mission has
really helped me out.”
Jody exudes gratitude when he talks about the basic necessities he
gets at UGM: three meals a day, showers, a safe bed each night. “You
can go to sleep and not have to worry about who’s going to jump you.”
But his favorite aspects of the shelter aren’t as tangible. He enjoys
the camaraderie among the residents and his friendships with staff,
volunteers and fellow guests. “I was used to doing for myself. But now
I realize that when you do for others, it’s better. It’s much better.”
Plus, there’s chapel. Jody loves chapel and the variety of groups that
conduct services each night. He could hardly wait until UGM’s July 31
baptism service to be baptized.
Jody’s gratitude has turned him into an ambassador to people he sees
living on the streets: “I keep telling everybody I see out there, ‘The
UGM, I’ll take you over there.’ … I mean, a shower every day, three
square meals, a roof over your head when it’s storming outside – you
can’t beat that.”
Jody didn’t expect to end up homeless, but he’s thankful for those who
looked past that label and gave him a helping hand by supporting the
Mission. “You walk into UGM and the arms are open and everybody
appreciates you being there. The UGM has picked me up when life had
shut me down.”