When Tim McPherson looks back at his life, he can’t believe where he is today.

“I’m an alcoholic, and I really never did anything except what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it,” he said. “I never could have even imagined this.”

McPherson, 58, now owns a three-bedroom house in Baltimore City and is engaged to be married on Christmas Eve. And he credits Christopher Place Employment Academy for helping to steer his successes over the past two years.

“My life is just totally different from what it was,” he said. “I’m Christopher Place for life.”

Tim McPherson and his fiancee Verdell Lemon

A winding path

McPherson said he left his first wife in 1987 and moved from Baltimore to Florida where he “drank and went from job to job,” ending up homeless. He returned to the area as his mother grew older, but couldn’t keep a job. Later, when he got out of prison, he couldn’t stay sober, and his probation officer recommended a local rehabilitation program.

That’s where he heard about Christopher Place Employment Academy, Catholic Charities’ intensive residential program that offers education, training and recovery support to formerly homeless men in the Baltimore area.

“It was a two-year program and I thought I might as well be under an umbrella for the longest time I can be,” he said. “When I got here, it was like nothing I had ever experienced. You could be dropped here naked, and they got you. I just embraced the program. I said to myself, ‘I don’t really know how to live, so I’m going to learn how to live.'”

As new clients start the program, case managers determine the types of assistance they may need and help them work through barriers, said Program Manager Nicole Williams. Those barriers may include obtaining identification, developing a credit score, dealing with debt, or finding employment. People in the program look to staff, volunteers and each other for support.

“In Christopher Place, basically no person gets left behind,” Williams explained. “That’s the environment and the culture here. They try to share the information so everyone can win and be successful.”

She said yes

Step by step, McPherson began addressing challenges that had blocked his way. He earned back his driver’s license, which had been revoked. He developed a plan around paying child support. He was taken off probation early. He began working on his credit score. And when staff at Our Daily Bread Employment Center, where Christopher Place is located, got to know him, they recommended him for a job on-site.

Our Daily Bread Employment Center is also where McPherson met Verdell Lemon, and later proposed to her on Christmas Day 2019. He stepped into the dining room, where lunch was being served, and pulled out a ring.

“Everyone clapped,” he said. “I walked in with my Ravens leather jacket, got down on one knee, and she said yes.”

More than expected

From the time a client enters Christopher Place, he knows the date he is expected to move on – exactly two years later. For McPherson, that date was June 21, 2020. Four months earlier, he began exploring how to buy his own home, supported by staff and volunteers.

“I ended up finding … a three-bedroom house that’s gorgeous, on the longest block in Baltimore City,” he said, explaining how he closed on the house on June 19 and moved in the next day – one day before his scheduled departure from Christopher Place. “It took me all of those two years, minus a day. I was transformed. I am transformed. I’m just not the man who [first] walked into Christopher Place.”

Williams said McPherson’s positive nature and gratitude for the program stand out.

“As a Catholic Charities employee, he’s never forgotten where he’s come from and what the program did for him,” Williams said. “He got it all here – he got the job, he got the girl, he got the house, and he got his life back.”