ALPENA - After more than eight years of homelessness, Tim Mobus has a place of his own.
After staying at Sunrise Mission for a few months, Mobus is living at Riverview Apartments, he said. He's feeling mixed emotions about having his own place after so long, and he's currently looking for work to pay the rent with limited success. On Tuesday, he recalled the long path that took him from Nashville, Tenn., where he had a store, a wife and a job, to Alpena.
Mobus's life changed after his wife of 11 years was killed in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. Before then, he'd worked as a bouncer and occasionally as a wrestler. He and his wife owned a shop as well. After she died, he just stopped caring and ended up on the streets.
"I went crazy, my wife died," he said. "She's the woman I spent 11 years with, 11 wonderful years. That took it away in a heartbeat."
While Mobus still found work here and there, he didn't have enough to rent a place, he said. He sought help from the few services available to Nashville's homeless population, but didn't find much assistance. A day center provided a voucher for one night in a motel, and staying in the homeless mission there was out of the question.
"We call the one in Nashville 'The House of Pain,'" he said. "I stayed there one night, and a guy tried to steal my boots off my feet while I was sleeping."
Instead, Mobus ended up sleeping under a bridge, he said. At one point he had a tent, and later he found an abandoned pop-up camper by the river.
By contrast, Sunrise Mission felt like being with family, Mobus said. His time there helped him get used to being around other people again. He also was struck by Director John Ritter's offer to help him get back on his feet.
"He was willing to help me," he said. "Why would a stranger want to help me? It still baffles me, but I'm glad they did."
Seeing Mobus and other guests like him find a place is rewarding for Sunrise employees, Assistant Director Leslie Scheen said. Many have worked hard to re-right their lives, and seeing them start to climb the ladder again makes her smile.
"We try to give people hope to get beyond that difficulty they've had," she said. "When you get hope, you can seek out what you need."
Mobus is one of a string of success stories for Sunrise, Scheen said. In December, she quoted figures showing the mission serves around 300 people a year. Most stay for about 35 days, and many find a new place to stay in 90 days or less.
Sunrise employees also help guests get connected with services, and in Mobus' case they helped him get a copy of his birth certificate and a state identification, he said.
Mobus said he ended up in Alpena after he decided to walk to Two Harbors, Minn., to visit his former AA sponsor - he's been clean for 18 years, and he credits his sobriety for keeping him out of trouble. He walked there from Nashville, only to find out from the man's family that he had died three months before.
From there, Mobus said he set out for Utica, N.Y., to see some friends who lived there. He walked to St. Ignace and got a ride across the Mackinac Bridge. After getting sidetracked around Posen, someone gave him a ride to Alpena and took him to Sunrise. He arrived on Sept. 27.
On March 17, Mobus moved into his new place, he said. He signed up with the Alpena Housing Commission.
"They put me on a list of some kind and my name came up," he said. "They told me I had a place if I wanted it."
The Alpena Housing Commission has four apartment complexes in town, including one for families, Administrative Assistant Andrea Schodowski said. It's low-income housing, limited to 30 percent of a tenant's income, and it's helped out homeless people before.
Schodowski knows first-hand. When she was younger, she and her mother moved into Alpena Housing Commission-run apartments after being homeless, she said. Her mother graduated school, became a nurse and they moved out. Now, she works for the housing commission, and said many who stay there move on to finish school or reach other milestones.
"It was beneficial for my family, and for the year and a half I've been here, it's been beneficial for many people," she said.
The housing commission works with people in a wide variety of situations, including the young and old, single parents and those with disabilities, Schodowski said. She urged anyone who can't afford housing to fill out an application with the commission.
When staying at Sunrise, Mobus said he noticed that some looked at him differently when he gave out the mission's address for his own.
"Not everybody who goes to a mission has problems," he said. "Don't judge a book by its cover, you'd be surprised."
Scheen agreed, adding that Sunrise guests ended up in their situations for many different reasons. Some are the working poor, who can become homeless within 90 days after losing a job. Others are educated, including doctors, nurses and master's degree holders.
"A whole variety of things can happen to cause homelessness," she said.
While Mobus is happy to have an apartment, he's also worried about being able to find a job and keep it, he said. He's hopeful that warmer months will bring more job opportunities.
"I have faith that things are going to work out," he said.