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From Angry Kid to Goal-Driven Man

Posted on Friday, September 29, 2017
By: Julia VanTine
Categories: Spotlights

Growing up in Brooklyn, 30-year-old Marquis Solomon had smarts and a large, stable family. But months before his ninth birthday, his father passed away. The loss left this bright little boy with a sense of abandonment that turned to rage. “I felt that I hadn’t had enough time with him,” says Marquis. Even his strong family unit couldn’t ease his
all-consuming anger that his father—who’d been both blind and bedridden before his death--had “left” him.


Marquis’ mother had family in Reading. Two years after his father’s death, she moved here with him and his two siblings. She hoped for a new beginning for her son, whose anger had become an issue at home and school. But the fresh start soured. Marquis’ anger had made the journey with him. It didn’t help that school bored him (“I was that kid who finished his work first because it was so easy”) or that he used his fists to settle issues. “I was a terror in school,” he admits.


But his intelligence carried him through.  He earned his diploma from Reading High in 2005 and immediately enrolled in college, aiming for an associate’s degree in criminal justice. But the bright kid with a hole in his soul struggled. His grades sank. After a semester on probation, he never returned to campus.

In 2007, Marquis and his mother had a blowout. She gave him a twenty-dollar bill and a ride to the Hope Rescue Mission. He’d been there a week when he got a chance to turn his life around.


The mother of a friend worked at Opportunity House, and she vouched for him. “There are conditions you have to agree to, to live here,” says Marquis. “I jumped at the chance to get in.” Suddenly, Marquis had a place to live and a case manager who helped him set and achieve goals. Those goals were simple: “to secure employment and stable housing,” he says. He set out to hit them.

Marquis thrived in Opportunity House’s goal-oriented program. Three years in, he became a senior resident. In
2011, Opportunity House hired him as a full time member of the shelter staff. In 2014, after years of success,
Marquis messed up—those fists again. He lost his job. By then, he’d reconciled with his mother, who took him in because of the progress he’d made, and because he’d recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  A year later, the head of the shelter program gave Marquis a chance to come back. He did return—minus his
job, but with a renewed sense of focus. “I’ve never looked back,” he says.


These days, Marquis is pursuing a goal he’d once held, but had forgotten he had: to become a chef. “After high school, I’d actually gotten accepted into the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute in Philly,” he says. Another goal met: Marquis recently accepted a full-time job in the kitchen of an area restaurant and nailed his first busy Friday night.


Marquis will live at Opportunity House until he saves enough to afford his own place. His time here has driven home a sobering lesson: homelessness can happen to anyone, and quickly. While mental health and addiction are significant risk factors, he says, “a lot of people are just in a messed-up situation.” Relationships shatter. Jobs are lost. Bills mount. And in one awful moment, the roof over your head disappears. “Living here really opened my eyes” to just how precarious life can be, he says. But life also comes with turning points—invitations to slip farther down, or to reach out for help and work your way towards the life you want for yourself. Marquis chose the latter, and again, there’s no turning back.

Tagged:Client Success

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