Going Full Throttle Into A Slower Gear


Finding oneself in a position of homelessness can be a harrowing experience, leading individuals to seek refuge in emergency shelters like Opportunity House. This is the last resort for many who have faced evictions, lost relationships, or found themselves with no support system. The journey of Mike, a former rock-and-roll guitarist turned welder, reflects the rollercoaster of life’s challenges and the transformative power of seeking help during times of adversity.

The Rock-and-Roll Life

Living the rock-and-roll lifestyle is a dream for many. Mike lived it.

Born to a musically inclined mother and a father who had an entrepreneurial spirit, Mike was a combination of both personalities. In the 1980s, Mike was a full-time guitarist for Dirty Mary, a metal band covering songs from bands like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Def Leppard, and Cinderella. He played gigs from Florida to Boston. He had celebrated his success by buying the accoutrements of success: a Corvette, a boat, top-of-the line guitars and music equipment. While the music came easy and the money was great, the band broke up over drugs. Mike wanted no parts of that lifestyle.

He formed a new band called ZooTrip which succumbed to the unhealthy habits of the rock-and-roll lifestyle, something that didn’t interest Mike.

Unforeseen Challenges

After leaving the road, Mike returned to his parents’ house in a small town in Berks County and learned how to weld. He became a welder at Mayer Pollock and Superior Metals. Then he secured a coveted welding position at Dana Corporation, Parish Division in Reading and once again achieved a level of financial success he never imagined. “I bought four houses with the intentions of buying a total of 30-40 houses as a real estate investor.” That was his plan and his dream to create a secure retirement.

Being a landlord had many challenges and then the Dana plant closed. Mike sold the properties and went back on the road, this time as a welder with the Steam Fitters union. He welded pipes for oil refineries, nuclear power plants, trash-to-steam plants, and food processing facilities. The money was good, but the travelling was exhausting.

Struggles and Loss

He took a welding job working in the Philadelphia area. He lived with his parents, which gave him the roots and stability he craved. Then Mike’s father died, and just two years later, he lost his mother. His world was turned upside down. “I lost my motivation. I lost my spirit,.” said Mike.

Years on the road travelling to job sites, Mike was no stranger to speeding. He had numerous violations and citations and eventually lost his license. Determined to make a living, Mike chose to drive with a suspended license and eventually, the law caught up to him. The suspensions didn’t deter Mike, and he became a habitual offender and was sentenced to prison time. Because of his strong work ethic, the judge allowed him to serve each of his sentences over 15 weekends. He served three sentences over two years.

Mike mustered his entrepreneurial spirit and started a painting business with his then girlfriend. It was a welcome change after breathing damage and health issues that welding caused for him. The business was a success, but his relationship was toxic. “She was an alcoholic, and I knew I couldn’t change her,” he added.

Navigating Adversity During COVID

Despite being a successful welder, the COVID-19 pandemic brought new challenges. His painting business faltered, welding opportunities dwindled, and Mike faced financial strain. Temporary relief came through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), allowing him to retain his apartment for some time. But when the assistance ceased, Mike faced eviction and the fear of homelessness.

Finding Hope at Opportunity House Emergency Shelter

Sign of the word help

“I was scared. I slept outside for two nights,” said Mike. After two nights of sleeping in the rain, Mike decided to come indoors to Opportunity House. Mike believes that divine intervention put him where he needed to be. “Now I’m slowing down. I’m simplifying my life. I don’t need all the things I thought I needed,” he added. He feels that he is being prepared for the next chapter in his life.

Embracing Renewal and Simplicity

Mike’s experience at Opportunity House transformed his perspective on life. He realized that material possessions were not the key to happiness. Instead, he sought a simpler, more fulfilling life, cherishing every moment and embracing the power of change. “Do what you have to do to change your life. If you don’t like your situation—close the door, walk away, and open a new door,” advises Mike.

Ways to get involved at Opportunity House

  • Financial Support – donate HERE
  • Volunteer – get information on serving dinner, joining a committee and other volunteer opportunities HERE
  • Attend one of our events – attending an Opportunity Event allows you to learn more about Opportunity House and show your support all while having a great time.
  • Donate unused items – donating to the OppShop not only keeps items from going to landfills, it also provides jobs for our clients, raises money to support the shelter and offers low cost essentials for those who need them.
  • Come take a tour. To really understand the impact your support can make, call the shelter at 610-374-4696 and schedule a tour.

Opportunity House is a non-profit organization in Reading, PA, that offers those experiencing homelessness a safe place to live while they rebuild their lives.  Our Success Stories share inspiring stories of our client’s journey from homelessness to finding stability, safety, and security after leaving the emergency shelter. 


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