San Diego

Road Trip of Hope: Formerly Homeless Man Paying It Forward

After surviving addiction and being on the streets himself, an El Cajon man reached out to a veteran down on his luck to give him a shot at a new life.

The journey for Joe Jozwiak and Mark Edwards started in an El Cajon alley on South First Street and East Washington Avenue, near a 7-Eleven. Right now they are on the road to Texas where a new beginning is awaiting Jozwiak. 

"Everything is better than this," Jozwiak said.

He is finally able to say goodbye to living on life on the streets.

"Me and a friend of mine, are going to travel to Texas," Jozwiak said. "I am going to stay there, and I am going to work."

In Texas waiting for him is another formerly homeless couple who have offered him a place to stay and help to find a job.

Edwards met Jozwiak at an event providing services for the homeless.

"Took me about a month and a half, may even two months, for him to break down," Ewards said.

Edwards' sincerity was what finally got through to Jozwiak.

"You don't need to speak softly or carry a big stick," he said. "You just need to speak genuine."

Edwards, more than most, understands Jozwiak's trauma. He was once homeless and battling addiction. He knew he needed to get Jozwiak to where he can find a job and have a support system. That place is Texas.

"Joe got a plane ticket but didn't have an ID, so they wouldn't let him on the plane," Edwards said. So, he offered to drive him there.

"I believe helping him out is helping me out," he said. "Call it selfish, but I like it. I feel good."

As Jozwiak looks ahead to a new beginning, he has to say goodbye to the people whom he said treated him as a human being.

"We like Joe. He may be down on his luck and everything but he helps us out," 7-Eleven store clerk Susan McCray said. "He used to break down our boxes for us."

It was tough saying goodbye to them, but "I have two choices," he said.

"Move to another state and make money and become a human being again, or I can stay here and live behind the dumpster and be an idiot,"  Jozwiak said. "That ain't happening."

The road trip from El Cajon to Texas was made possible through the community's donations and support, Edwards said.

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