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“My kids were worried about me at first, but I’ve never felt in danger at any time,” said Fleischaker. “St. Stephen’s has a good reputation on the street. People know we are there to help them.”
“If you are doing this work, you have to understand you can never give up on somebody, and you don’t look down on somebody because they are an alcoholic or mentally ill.
“You find out a lot about people,” Fleischaker said. “Some of these people had good jobs and families, and something snapped.”
Some of those clients die on the streets. Some never get off. But the ones who do remember Fleischaker and his colleagues.
One former homeless man, now living in an apartment, still calls Fleischaker every week. When the weather is especially bad, he calls to check on his mentor. “He’ll call me and say, ‘I hope you’re not going on outreach today.’ ”
Asked if his new job is more rewarding that his long, successful career, Fleischaker responded: “Much more. I’ve never been this fulfilled. I just feel that at this point in my life, this is what I should be doing, and what I want to do.”
“I’m just grateful to Monica for giving me this opportunity,” Fleischaker said. “She’s put up with me pushing and pushing to do outreach, and I’m forever indebted to her for it. How many people can go home at night on a day when they’ve changed somebody’s life?”
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