This week, Carpenter’s volunteer Jorge Astorga sat down with Mr. Farmer, a former shelter resident who participated in the 2012 Run for Shelter. We hope that his story will inspire you to join us for this year’s Run the Shelter, and to contribute to Carpenter’s mission to end homelessness.

Mr. Farmer, tell us a little about yourself.
I am a former professional boxer, so I love to stay in shape and stay healthy. I’ve always loved running. I started when I was 11 years old, and I still try to fit a run into my schedule whenever I can.

When I was 41, my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I had to stop my boxing and workouts to take care of her. I had been working as a mental health counselor, and I had to leave my job to have time to attend to her. When my mother had passed away, I no longer had a place to live. I came to Carpenter’s Shelter to save money and to get back on my feet.

I was a walk-in client, and I spent four months at the shelter. I am very grateful for the assistance I received from Carpenter’s. Living there helped me refocus. The time I spent at the shelter helped me pay off my debts and build better credit. Carpenter’s also helped me develop people skills, and introduced me to individuals in similar situations. With help from Carpenter’s services, I was able to save money and move back into the community. I now live in DC in my own apartment, and I continue to check-in with the shelter and my case manager.

What made you decide to sign up for the Run for Shelter race last year?
I decided to run after I moved out of the shelter. After everything Carpenter’s gave me, I just wanted to give back to the shelter and to thank them for helping me.

Are you going to participate in Run for Shelter again?
Yes. I will run in this year’s race. But, this time, I will be training harder. Last year was my first 5K, and I did not train. I ran it in 22 minutes, and I thought it was hard. I love to compete, and I’m looking forward to making a better time this year. I know I can do it!

Do you have any tips or tricks for others who are considering running their first race?
My advice to everyone who is running a 5K is to train hard leading up to the race. But take one step at a time. Give yourself at least a month to train. If you train, you can do it. It’s not about being first, it’s about finishing. Stamina is also important. Give yourself a week, at least, to push yourself before you run.

I believe that everyone needs to stay in shape. Exercising makes you feel good mentally. It helps you keep focus and be consistent. If you’re consistent, things will get done. Everything takes practice. Keep working at something, and you will get better at it.

What is the most positive thing you would like to share about your experience with the Shelter? I want everyone to know that starting over is not a bad thing. The whole world is not gone when something bad happens—you can get back on you feet. And that is what I got from the living at Carpenter’s Shelter. That’s why I want to continue to give back to them by participating in this year’s Run for Shelter.