Joey Morgan Directs Employees In Culver City - Homeless No More
If only his mother, Artermease Jenkins, and his father, Vernon Ward Morgan, were alive to see Joey Morgan now.
They would see a man who has overcome alcohol, drugs, gambling and poverty.
They would see a hard-working man who loves his job, has his own apartment and is the proud owner of two trucks.
While Morgan isn't living in the lap of luxury, he is finally rid of the demons and poor choices that have dragged him down most of his life.
"I don't have to be ashamed of the fact of who I was before I evolved into the person I am today," says the 53-year-old Morgan. "My biggest aspiration was to live a normal life.
"Now, I can see the value of working for what you want."
In April, Morgan will be celebrating his three-year anniversary since becoming a work supervisor for Chrysalis Enterprises. The company is a division of the non-profit organization Chrysalis that helps the homeless and less fortunate by helping them find employment.
Five days a week, Morgan can be spotted in downtown Culver City overseeing about six workers who are responsible for street maintenance which entails everything from street sweeping to removing graffiti. As part of the revitalization plan aimed at attracting restaurants and retailers, the Culver City Downtown Business Association hired Chrysalis Enterprises in April 2007 to help keep the area clean.
"There are other groups who do bare bones cleaning, but because we had worked with Chrysalis in other districts, we knew they had an excellent track record," said Jessica L. Whaley, executive director of the Culver City Downtown Business Association. "They're the hardest workers that I've ever seen in my life.
"The guys are out there and it's amazing how hard they work because of where they are in life. They know maybe it's their second, third or 10th chance."
Morgan in particular has become ingrained in the community, providing local business owners service with a smile.
"Joey has done a terrific job," Whaley said. "I've heard from many business owners and professionals who tell me how friendly and professional he is."
Yes, if only Artermease and Vernon could see him now.
The women in his life tried in vain to keep him from succumbing to the "corrupt world," as his grandmother called it, the street life of hustling for money by any means necessary.
Vernon was killed when he was nine, leaving him with no adult male to look up to. Morgan took his first sip of alcohol after his dad died and left home when he was 14.
By 19, he began using liquor and drugs while bouncing around the streets of Los Angeles.
Working hard was never an issue for Morgan as he hawked everything from chickens to peanuts to cans of paint, anything to make a buck.
It was the substance abuse, gambling problem and his affinity for nice things that prevented him from turning his life around years ago.
"There were highs and lows," says Morgan, who was born and raised in LA. "It was a picket-fence life."
Somehow, he managed his vices and maintained regular jobs at different intervals. Morgan was once a staff supervisor at a mentally disabled facility and at a construction site.
But the streets kept calling and he couldn't break free so he migrated to Northern California in 2000 hoping that a change of scenery would inspire him to change his lifestyle.
Unfortunately, it didn't.
Morgan spent about six years there performing odd jobs and various scams. Then, his lifestyle caught up with him and he spent several years in prison after taking a plea bargain for allegedly receiving stolen goods.
The time in jail was a wake-up call for Morgan, who was tired of the "toils and struggles of living day-to-day."
So a week after he was released from prison in November 2006, Morgan hopped on a bus and headed straight back to LA. About a month after he returned, he decided to check out Chrysalis, an organization he had heard about through his brother, Vernis Brown.
"I came back, I was homeless," Morgan said. "I really had no where to turn so I was directed toward Chrysalis.
"I went through substance abuse, alcohol and had run-ins with the law. I said I'm fed up with this lifestyle. I'm going to get myself together."
Despite failed attempts in the past, Morgan said he has been able to remain sober and clean since 2000 because he said he realized that when God created him he was pure, free of drugs and alcohol. He also realized that, "Everything I pursued with drugs and alcohol led to greater problems."
After arriving at Chrysalis' office, Morgan immediately took advantage of the different services offered to him. He spent about two weeks taking computer classes, meeting with a counselor who explained what would be expected of him, familiarizing himself with the job development program, learning how to put together a resume and taking anger management courses.
While Morgan received life skills training through Chrysalis, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, he lived in a shelter and other transitional housing.
Once he completed the orientation, he was directed to the job placement center where he received job training. Morgan learned about safety, how to interact with customers and how to maintain a neat appearance.
After Morgan successfully completed the job orientation, Chrysalis Enterprises offered him a job. He began performing the duties of the workers he now supervises and was promoted to supervisor a year later.
"What we offer is transitional work experience," said Trevor Kale, vice president of Chrysalis Enterprises. "The hope and aim of our program is that people get work experience and that they will gain the soft skills needed to help them succeed.
"Many of our clients haven't graduated high school or have been homeless. Because of their background, generally people in the marketplace wouldn't necessarily hire them. But if they do well, we can really stand behind their work effort because they will have six or nine month's of work experience. It really opens the doors and make them more attractive job candidates."
Morgan credits Chrysalis with helping him to become a more responsible and productive citizen.
Were it not for the services he received at Chrysalis, he figures he'd still be homeless and probably continuing his destructive lifestyle.
"I appreciate the fact that Chrysalis took the time to invest in me," said Morgan. "I can attribute Chrysalis for addressing my problems and giving me sound solutions to seek the remedy.
"I believe that if more programs would follow the example of what Chrysalis offers, the results would be great for people seeking help. I am aware of programs that exist that are run of the mill. They're not effective.
"Chrysalis sits down with you and gets into the mindset of what you need and how can I help you?"
This is a reason Morgan is very grateful for his job and mindful of setting a positive example for others who work for Chrysalis Enterprises.
"I have to be able to bend and listen to the problems one of my co-workers may have," Morgan said. "I realize they may have come from the same walks of life, have the same experiences or behavior patterns so I do not place myself above them."