Crystal's Story

All my life I’ve been addicted to drugs, in and out of prison, just being homeless on the streets. A hopeless, horrible life. I ended up at the shelter and I started the Next Step Program that’s where I got the seed of God planted. 

From there I saved up for 4 or 5 months; I got a job, after not having a job for a while and kinda got back on my feet. But then I lost contact and my connection to God, so another couple years I was on the streets, homeless, back in my addiction. And I just kept remembering this place, and the ladies’ testimonies and I wanted to get my life back and get that feeling back. So I chose to come back to the Mission – the House of Hope is where I’m at now. Since being here, it’s given me new hope, restoration with my family…a new beginning for me.

My rock bottom moment was being out there sleeping on bus benches, not having any family anymore, panhandling for money –just to get a beer. Not caring about anything, being dirty, not showering for 4 or 5 days. That’s when I knew I couldn’t live like this anymore. That’s when I chose to go back to the shelter.

Since being in the [Life Change Academy] program, I’ve learned that I can make a good life for myself. I’m learning about myself through my relationship with God –changing my attitude, being aware of my triggers from before –people, places and things– relationships. Just learning to care about myself, and work on myself right now. First, building my relationship with God, which is something that I’ve never really had.

Also since being here, my mother passed away. And I couldn’t have been in a better place for that to happen. The support of the women and staff, going to church, and the relationships with my family that I’ve rebuilt. I feel like I’m becoming a new person. I go to church with my family. I have a 16 year old daughter, she didn’t talk to me for a while, but we’re talking again. My family supports me through all this, which feels good. I’m slowly losing the guilt and shame of the past.

This place is wonderful. It opens your eyes. I get to hear real life testimonies from the people that have been in my shoes and it gives me hope that I can get through this. That there is life after this, that’s the best part of it.

Ryan Stillwater

Ryan is a longtime Visalian — a graduate of Redwood High School and Fresno Pacific University with a bachelors degree in Christian Ministries. Intrigued by the partnership between the Visalia Rescue Mission and the City of Visalia, Ryan began putting his vision on paper as VRM's Oval Venue Coordinator in August 2013, and has sparked the interest of many throughout the community. Ryan and his wife Amy (a Mt. Whitney High School graduate) have been married for seven years and have three amazing kids — ages 6, 4, and 4.