“Homelessness is a fact of life, not a way of life,” Jeff Thompson was quoted as saying at the UAF Honor’s Program Graduation. He wanted people at the graduation to understand the length and breadth of his journey. He started that journey while participating in our first class in our Veteran’s GPD Program at the Mission.
That was in September of 2009 and though he quickly satisfied the basic requirements of the program he stayed on a few more months while he recovered from rotator cuff surgery. Jeff moved out of the Mission in May of 2010 and now, at age 54, has earned an AA in Paralegal Studies (2012) and this spring a B.A. in Justice.
The last time Jeff had been in school (other than military schools) was to get a GED in 1978. He had been a welder and a merchant seaman for 30 years. Obtaining a higher education degree seemed almost unattainable to him, but it was a little bit of help that got him over that hill of unbelief. Jeff says that he doesn’t think Rodney still really understands what that loan of $50 from Rodney’s petty cash fund meant to him. Yes, it enabled Jeff to complete his university registration, but more than that, it meant that someone believed in him. That’s why he had to come back and show Rodney his diploma.
Jeff has had to tap into belief as he completed the last year of school under the severe duress of a diagnosis of a chronic and eventually fatal disease. He said that he’s facing this illness the same way he faced homelessness - accepting what is but not letting itcontrol how he lives the rest of his life. Now Jeff just wants a chance to work in the legal profession, especially to be able to help make an impact on people on the wrong side of the law. We ended our conversation with his volunteering to come and help people at the Mission as a paralegal. Jeff knows that a little bit of help can sometimes go a long ways.