CHAMPAIGN — Doug Gritmacher holds up a paycheck in his living room with pride.
He'd just gotten it that day, the first check he's earned in four years, he says.
But it was a bittersweet day for him.
Homeless for eight years until he was placed in this tiny rental home a month ago — rent-free, courtesy of C-U at Home — Gritmacher had also lost his job as a night desk clerk at a hotel. He didn't have enough computer skills, he said. His boss was going to let him come work part-time at another hotel working the breakfast shift, he said, and he hopes to save all the money he can while he's got the house over the next 11 months.
A meat-cutter for 25 years, Gritmacher said he finished an alcohol rehabilitation program Feb. 1, and he loves having a bed and a home and living by himself after so many years on the street.
The house is like "a little cottage," he says.
Gritmacher says his parents were killed in an accident when he was 4 years old and he lived with godparents, his grandmother and in foster care until he was 17, then hit the streets. He got married and had a son and a home for 30 years, but became homeless after a divorce, he said.
He turned to the street because he didn't have a family. But when he worked, his checks stretched to cover the cost of a motel room for a week or two, he said.
Gritmacher said he's been drinking most of his life, but he was tired of it. He was tired of being sick. He'd met Jackson through the Canteen Run, and he called her up last year and said he was ready to try rehab again.
C-U at Home has been such a blessing to him, he says.
"Melany, she's got such a heart. She's given me a home and she doesn't even have a home herself," he said.
He's determined it's going to work this time, he says.
"I don't want her efforts to be in vain," Gritmacher adds. "I want to thrive and I want to shine."