A Special Letter From Cameron

As I’ve been laying down the foundation of the new Herb Jamieson Centre, I can’t help but think about how foundational this place has been in my life. Every single day I thank God for the life I have — for my wife, my kids, my house, and my job. And I thank him for saving my life several years ago right here at the Herb Jamieson Centre. 

I’d like to share my story with you and why I’m so passionate about this project. I really hope that you’ll consider supporting this project so that people like me can continue to have our lives changed.

I can remember sitting in a Hope Mission chapel service one Sunday evening feeling bitter, angry, and looking rough. I remember the negative thoughts and hopelessness spiraling around inside my mind. But someone got up and started sharing his testimony of how God transformed his life. I’ll never forget how he looked. I just saw pure joy and happiness radiating from him. I craved what he had so badly and I asked him how I could have that kind of joy. He told me I needed to surrender my life and will to God.

At this point in my life, I hardly knew anything about God. All I knew was loneliness and despair. All I knew was a life in prison. But here at the Herb Jamieson Centre, God was just about to remove the chains that had been binding me since I was a young boy. It’s in this place that I was soon going to be set free.  

“But here at the Herb Jamieson Centre, God was just about to remove the chains that had been binding me since I was a young boy. It’s in this place that I was soon going to be set free.” 

My story begins as a child with an absent father who was constantly in and out of prison. We had no money and rarely had any possessions — except for the few times my dad would get out of prison and bring us gifts. But he was never around for very long — and even when he was around, he was always drinking and doing drugs.

I was just ten years old when I started my life of crime, drugs, and alcohol. I got locked up in a juvenile detention centre for two years and when I was finally released at the age of twelve, I ended up getting my girlfriend pregnant. I felt so lost and didn’t know what to do — all I knew is that I needed to provide for my family and so I started selling more drugs. By the age of fifteen, I was a full-blown addict.

Bigger crimes meant heavier sentences, which led to years spent behind prison bars. During those years, I met so many people who, like me, didn’t know how to live in the outside world. We didn’t know how to live a normal life.

In 2013 I got out of prison and had nowhere to go. I had absolutely no money and no place to stay. I ended up finding shelter in the homes of gang members. But continuing to be around the drugs and alcohol caused my life to spiral out of control. I thought about getting help — but no treatment centres would accept me because of my violent criminal record and history.

I called my sister, desperate for help. I told her that I couldn’t stop drinking or doing drugs. I was stuck in this cycle and had no place to go. She did some searching and told me about Hope Mission. She said that they might be able to help me. The next day, I started making my way to the Hope Mission’s Herb Jamieson Centre. 

I can remember walking into the old building and seeing the roof that was falling apart, the grimy floors, the electrical issues — the Herb Jamieson Centre was run down and old. The showers didn’t work, you could see through the floor in certain spots — I can’t even begin to describe the smell. But I don’t like to knock the old building because it wasn’t long before I met the staff who made this old building a place of hope and renewal. 

I ended up joining Breakout, Hope Mission’s recovery program for men. My case managers gladly welcomed me into the program with unconditional love and acceptance. They gave me a glimpse of hope.

“They gave me a glimpse of hope.”

My journey wasn’t straightforward, however. After all, I had lived a life of crime up until that point — I didn’t know how to live a normal life. I got arrested after an altercation with a police officer and ended up back in jail. This time I really felt like giving up. I kept telling myself lies that this life of crime was the life for me. I tried to surrender my life to God but I felt like I had failed.

But this time, my experience in jail was different. For the first time in my life, I had a support network of people who cared about me. My Hope Mission Case Workers would come see me every week. They would pray with me and encourage me. They would tell me the truth and give me hope that this wasn’t the life I had to live. 

The truth and lies would compete for space in my heart over the next few months. When I was finally released, I unfortunately didn’t go back to the Herb Jamieson Centre. I relapsed and my life became a rollercoaster again. I can remember waking up in the homes of people I didn’t recognize. 

I’ll never forget how I felt when I finally hit rock bottom. I didn’t want to live anymore. I wanted to end it all. The lies were holding me down — but in my darkest moment, I stood up and came back to the place where people cared about me. 

I walked through the doors of the Herb Jamieson Centre, got down on my knees, and begged for help. And with open arms, they welcomed me back into the program. That was the last day I ever had a drink or did any drugs. I was set free.

It’s been over five years since that day, and my life has completely turned around. I’ve started a beautiful family with my wife, who also went through Hope Mission’s addiction recovery program. Together, we have a home, a car, and stable employment.

I’d be almost completely unrecognizable to those who knew me in my former life. I feel happy. I feel genuine joy. I smile all the time. I love to make jokes and make others laugh! Life has meaning and purpose now. The Herb Jamieson Centre changed my life.

“Life has meaning and purpose now. The Herb Jamieson Centre changed my life.”

That’s why when I heard that Hope Mission would be rebuilding the Herb Jamieson Centre, I immediately called a friend who was involved with the project and asked if I could join the construction crew somehow. And today, I’m working as the site rigger rebuilding the very place that rebuilt my life. It is an absolute joy. 

Driving up to my first day working on the new Herb Jamieson Centre was unbelievable. I had the biggest smile from ear to ear — I was so happy! I’ve had the chance to share my story with a few of my coworkers and they are always amazed when I tell them that I used to live here — this place was my home. I usually have to show them pictures from those days because they can hardly believe the transformation I’ve gone through!

It’s been a busy few months on the jobsite. As the site rigger, my job is to work with the tower crane and drop materials in place. And as I’ve been hooking the chains up, I can’t help but remember the all chains that used to bind me.

Like many in my family, I was consumed by my addictions. I’ve been locked in a concrete cell for the majority of my life. But here at the Herb Jamieson Centre, I learned that God could break my chains of addiction. God is here in the inner city and in the rough parts of Edmonton. And God will continue to be here in the new Herb Jamieson Centre, transforming lives.

 “God is here in the inner city and in the rough parts of Edmonton. And God will continue to be here in the new Herb Jamieson Centre, transforming lives.”

This building is going to help thousands and thousands of men. And not just men, but women, kids, teenagers — entire families that have been pulled apart will find restoration. I know this as a fact because this place changed my life. Coming here was the best decision I’ve ever made.

The new Herb Jamieson Centre is a sign of rebirth. It’s a sign of hope. When I think of what this place means to me, the first word that comes into my mind is hope. Hope for the people who have no hope. Hope for the hungry. Hope for the homeless.

I know firsthand what it’s like to have no place to go. No place to belong. But the New Herb Jamieson Centre is being built for people like me. People that need it. People living on the streets. People who have only ever known guilt, shame, and the weight of their chains. 

I often think about that day I sat in a Hope Mission chapel service, with a sinking feeling in my stomach. I felt sick. I felt depressed. But now I can see that it was my guilt and shame eating away at me. I had to release it. I had to let it go. And that’s exactly what I did here at the Herb Jamieson Centre.

If an old and tired building like the Herb Jamieson Centre was able to still change thousands of lives, I cannot even imagine how many hearts will be transformed in this new building. This place is going to change lives. The new Herb Jamieson Centre will a place where the captives are set free — just as I was several years ago. I am no longer in prison. I am no longer bound by chains. I am free.

 “This place is going to change lives.”

We are currently working every day with our hands to build this facility for guys just like me. Would you come alongside of us to lay this foundation with us, to make possible the blessing and life-change that I was given to be given to the many others who need it so desperately?

We are committed to building the new Herb Jamieson Centre so people can be changed like I was changed. I hope you’ll join me in making sure that future generations of people like me can continue to find life-saving shelter and care. 

God bless you for listening to my story, and God bless you for your care! 

Sincerely,

Cameron Formerly homeless — now transformed, set free, and rebuilding the very shelter that saved my life!

P.S. I hope you’ll consider helping me bring this project to completion — this place literally saved my life. I cannot wait to see the impact you’re going to make as you rebuild this shelter. You are truly going to bring hope to thousands and thousands of people like me for years to come. Thank you! 

THE NEW HERB JAMIESON CENTRE

TOGETHER WE CAN PROVIDE SHELTER

THE NEW HERB JAMIESON CENTRE

TOGETHER WE CAN PROVIDE SHELTER