Marijuana, Forgiveness, and Redemption

Facing Homelessness from Brenau University (Gainesville, Georgia)

Age 23

If you ever walk into Good News at Noon, you’ll notice a heavy smell of bread. That is because the office contains so much bread on this one shelf that one person could have sandwiches, hotdogs, and bread and butter for years to come. That isn’t the case, though. Good News at Noon serves about 40 people dinner at our Bible Study every night.

Mr. B, the guy who used to take care of us, heard some good news at noon when he was homeless in Chicago – and that’s where the name came from. At the Melrose Apartments in Gainesville, he would serve food and then he expanded and made it bigger. At least that’s the story I heard. I came to Good News after a lot of things happened in my life, but I think it makes more sense to tell you how I ended up in Gainesville, GA in the first place.

I was born and raised in Sacramento, California. I have several siblings. Some of them I have met, others I haven’t. I would like to meet them; it’s good to know your folks. In fact, one of my older brothers is the reason I’m in Gainesville. I came out here in about 2013 when my older brother became the manager of the Denny’s in Gainesville. He wanted me to be his cook, so I did. I liked it. It was a different experience because I’ve never had a job like that before. I stayed there for about three months, and then I left.

After that, I let go of my place and started working at the chicken plants out here. They paid more. I was living out of my car because I just didn’t like the living conditions of my apartment. I was also selling weed.

That’s where my life changed. On June 19, 2016, I got locked up for possession of marijuana with the intent to sell. The story of how I got caught is pretty funny, now that I look back on it. It was on a Sunday. I was sitting in my car in a parking garage, and I was waiting for someone to call me. There was no one around. It was just me. I remember seeing somebody walking by and I was just sitting there. I rolled a blunt, smoking. I got a call because someone wanted some weed. I was supposed to go meet with him. I ended up falling asleep in my car and then I woke up to a flashing light.

I couldn’t believe after all this time, the police got me. My whole car smelled like weed from smoking, plus the weed I had on me. I had a scale in the door. I had honestly forgotten about the scale, but it didn’t even matter because my whole car smelled like weed.

As soon as I opened the door, the police officer wanted to check me and the car. I was hoping he didn’t find it. I only got caught with a half ounce of weed, but it could have been a lot worse than what it was. At the time, not only was I selling regular marijuana, which possession of is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but I was also selling what’s known as “Gucci.” Gucci is synthetic marijuana.

At one time, synthetic marijuana was legal across the United States. Then state legislatures started cracking down on it, making any form or combination of synthetic marijuana, which was obtainable in gas stations and hookah shops, illegal. The stuff can kill you. People have died on that stuff. Never marijuana. Possession of synthetic marijuana is punishable in the state of Georgia by up to 15 years in prison, but with the intent to sell, it’s punishable by 20 years.

So now, I’m facing a drug charge. A federal drug charge. Possession of marijuana with the intent to sell. I’ve been locked up multiple times, but there was something different about this time. I remember sitting in the back of the cop car making promises to God, and a moment of clarity came over me.

Out of all the times I got locked up, there was something different about this one. I think that’s why it could have been worse. The Gainesville cops can be problematic. I understand they’re doing their jobs, but it wasn’t like the whole parking lot smelled like weed because my windows were up. I didn’t have loud music playing or anything like that.

The worst part about it was after I got out, I found out people were calling me because my mugshot was in the busted newspaper. That’s embarrassing. My friends and other people I know were calling me because they picked up a newspaper for a dollar and were asking me, “Hey man, what happened to you? I saw you in the newspaper!”

After staying in jail for about a week, I returned to Good News at Noon. A lot of times when I talk about Good News, I talk about Mr. Thomas. He’s a former employee at Good News, but I remember him for giving me a second chance. I first met Mr. Thomas not long after I let go of my apartment and started living in my car. He asked me if I wanted to stay here, and I told him I would love to. That man changed my life. If I had never come here, I wouldn’t have known about God.

Sometimes I catch myself still wanting to do bad, but you can’t be bad and good. You can’t be on the fence. Finding faith at Good News is a common story amongst the residents at Good News. Every day aside from Thursdays, the residents at Good News have a bible study service. A different church comes in every day and serves food after the service.

As far as my court date goes, I don’t know what’s going to happen. They haven’t told me anything. But all I can do is let go and let God handle it. I’m not worried about it, but I do understand that I have consequences to face. All I can do is worry about what’s going on now. And now I like to help people. Now I like to make sure the residents here are doing well. If people here are good, then I’m good.

Told by: Kenya Hunter

This story originally appeared in Facing Homelessness in Hall County, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia.

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