Homeless to homeowner: One Seattle man’s path to recovery

Oct 1, 2021, 3:56 PM | Updated: Oct 11, 2021, 9:00 am
Conservation Corps volunteers (Photo by Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via Getty Images)
(Photo by Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

An often heard refrain in Seattle’s political landscape on the subject of homelessness is that simply throwing money at the problem won’t solve the issue. Yet at least one man who spent six years living out of cars, tents, and occasionally I-5’s notorious homeless encampments escaped the “jungle” with the help of social services.

Joel Alba, a formerly homeless drug addict, appeared on KIRO’s Gee and Ursula Show to discuss the reality of homelessness in Seattle and what his path to recovery looked like.

He discussed how certain social services and leniency from the court after he was arrested ultimately enabled stability in his life, financially and otherwise, which allowed him to become a homeowner and father of three.

After he was arrested, he elected to participate in Drug Court, associated with Department of Social and Health Services. This special aspect of the judicial system seeks to reduce recidivism through rehabilitation programs and access to therapy intervention.

“There were moments within Drug Court when the counselors, therapists, the whole Drug Court staff, saw hope, and they saw something different,” Alba recalled.

“Walking down the street when you’re homeless and high, people look at you funny,” Alba continued. “These people treated me like a human being. They treated me like I was worth saving.”

“They did moral recognition therapy,” Alba added. “I had counseling. They allowed me to learn how to just be normal.”

Another key aspect to his path forward was skills and job training through the Conservation Corps.

“I love the Conservation Corps,” Alba continued. “It was the next level I needed after Drug Court for me to really gain the identity that I was looking for. You’re around like minded people, so you feel comfortable. You’re around people that were homeless that just got out of jail. You’re able to speak freely because everyone has that camaraderie where they understand.”

He elaborated on the exact services and job training that the program facilitates.

“I learned so much: Landscaping, running Bobcat excavators, irrigation, concrete work, farming,” Alba reflected. “While I was in there I got my GED. They would pull me away from my job, still getting paid to study and take my tests. I got my license back. I was able to pay off all of my child support. They helped me with court dates. They drove me to all my appointments, and towards the end, they did everything in their power to make sure that I left the Conservation Corps with a career.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Homeless to homeowner: One Seattle man’s path to recovery