SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – After suffering from alcoholism and homelessness, a Springfield man is finally catching a break. A church he volunteers with is giving him a permanent home.
“Right now, it’s not ready, but it will be ready,” Joseph ‘Philly’ Krieger said while checking out his place.
No matter how his future home looks, chances are Krieger will be grateful.
“I’m from Philadelphia,” Krieger said. “I came here. I was homeless. I had a job, and I lost it due to alcoholism. Alcohol really destroyed my life.”
Five years ago, he met pastor Christie Love and her husband Bob outside the Connecting Grounds’ old location on Commercial Street.
“I used to sit outside and drink my beers, being rude and disrespecting them,” Krieger said. “They would tell me about it. They would tell me not to drink, and I got to know them. They helped me out. They kept me strong. They would tell me to get on the bus to go to a shelter, and I was too rude to get on that bus because I would have the shakes so bad that I would be out in the cold. I needed my alcohol in the morning to drink so I could stop my shakes. There were several times where I did call Bob Love at 2, 3:00 in the morning. He was there for me, though. He came and got me. I thank him and Christie from the bottom of my heart.”
In 2020, Krieger detoxed in a hospital for five days. Then, he found shelter at Victory Mission. The Love family sponsored him for two months while he volunteered for their church.
“Without Outreach and The Connecting Grounds, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today,” Krieger said.
When Krieger was two months sober, Christie moved him into an RV donated to her.
“Christie actually, she was like, ‘How would you like to live in this?” Krieger said. “I was like, ‘Huh? It’s beautiful inside. It’s air-conditioned. It’s very nice, and I’m grateful for that.”
After almost a year of living in a vehicle and helping the outreach center, The Connecting Grounds will move him to a home next to its medical ministry.
“We needed someone on sight just to check on people,” Christie Love said. “Make sure that people were okay and had what they needed.”
Krieger says he’s happy to do it.
“I’m excited,” Krieger said. “I just can’t hide it. I do a lot for [the Love family], and they do a lot for me. I’m grateful for them. I really am. I just don’t want to live that way of life again. Never.”
Love says Krieger was a perfect candidate for the home after all he has overcome.
“One of the beautiful things we get to do is we get a front-row seat to watch people have an opportunity to change their life,” Love said. “I can’t force anyone to make changes, but I can support people in making changes, and I can try to help resource and equip change as much as possible if people are willing to make those brave and courageous choices. I have just been blown away watching [Krieger] make courageous choice after courageous choice after courageous choice. He has done it in such a beautiful way. Just watching him grow as a person, and how much his life has changed, and how much he has given back to the community and The Connecting Grounds, he is an amazing blessing to us. His example of being able to change his life is really going to inspire people that change is possible.”
Love says her church received a $50,000 grant from Lowe’s as part of its 100 Hometowns Project. Half of the money will be spent on Krieger’s place.
“We’ll have employees from Lowe’s that are going to be coming to volunteer, which is amazing because we have a very small staff and team. We’ll be organizing volunteer workdays for Lowe’s and the community to come out and help at our different project sites. Everything has to be completed by October 31. It’s a tight turnaround, so it’s really going to be one of those chances for our community to rally around, roll up our sleeves, get involved and knock out some projects.”
But, the goal is to have Krieger moved in by September 2, 2021.
“We would love nothing more than for Philly to be able to celebrate his one year of sobriety here in his new house,” Love said. “And be able to host a barbecue, be able to have some of us over some of his friends over just to celebrate just kind of the culmination of that journey for him over the years. So, we are going to work hard and fast to try to make sure he’s in here by that one-year anniversary.”
Thanks to the grant, The Connecting Grounds will also be able to complete four other projects:
- Add a quarantine room to its medical respite house.
- Expand its family connection program by adding more visiting space and fencing for safety.
- Create a new bike workshop to repair bicycles for those needing transportation.
- Make the medical respite house wheelchair accessible by adding a ramp to the entrance.
The church also received an anonymous $100,000 donation.
“Everything that’s pretty much donated to us goes right back out onto the streets, onto helping people, onto meeting needs,” Love said. “We have to wait for surplus funds like this to come so we can continue to make progress.”