"Un-Stinking" Thinking

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The death of his mother in 1988 was pretty hard on Charles Harvin. He'd already had some trouble with the law. But, after her passing, trouble started being spelled with a capital T. Through all of his 20's and most of his 30's, he'd had a chance to see the inside of prison walls in virtually every corner of Maryland.

[Photo: Charles Harvin]
Charles Harvin

Ironically, when he wasn't behind bars, he liked to hang out at a couple of places in Baltimore that might have helped turn around his life - the Frederick Ozanam House transitional shelter and its companion Bread and Beans drop-in shelter for the homeless, both of which receive HUD funding. But instead of accepting offers of help, he liked to pick fights, steal anything "not nailed down" and generally make himself a very unwelcome guest.

And then the drug use started. Nothing stopped him, not even an HIV-positive diagnosis. "I didn't care about anything," he says, "and didn't want anything," until he overdosed and his brother had to call an ambulance to save his life. Finally, something seemed to click for Charles Harvin. He went into de-tox, swore off drugs and decided to try to get some structure back in his life.

He sought it in a place where he'd once been an unwelcome guest - the Ozanam House - where, for two years, he lived and, finally, took advantage of the supportive services it offered to put him on the road back. He graduated in 2005 and has since served as, a security guard for Beans and Bread.

Ask him today, four years after he went sober, and Charles Harvin probably would tell you it's all about attitude. "I'm no longer a prisoner of my own stinking thinking," he says. "I'm finally growing up" and "into doing the action, not just talking the talk."

He can even laugh about the "old days" he now says "I have no desire to go back to." "It's crazy," he adds, "my God has a sense of humor. Here I am working in the same place I used to steal from and cause trouble. I think I'm blessed."


J.C. Shay
Baltimore Field Office of HUD
(410) 209-6587

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