Rick sits across the table and settles into his chair, smiling. His tattoos are hard to ignore, but so is his demeanor. He seems full of life; you can see it in his eyes.
Born and raised in Greeley, Rick had only been living on the streets in Loveland a few weeks when he agreed to talk with # visible Loveland. “I was gang related at one time…but if God saved me from gang-banging, he’ll save me from being homeless.” He didn’t always feel that way, though. He was comfortable with the gang life, but after twenty-eight years he gave it up.
“Alcohol was my drug of choice, but I tried a lot of things and did a lot of things. I used to like to rob gas stations, for food, beer, money. I lived in Denver for a while. That was tough. But one night, walking down the sidewalk from a party, I had a moment of brokenness, of humbleness. I looked up and said, ‘I’m not about this anymore. I’m ready for change. I don’t wanna die in this gang-banging life.’ But I was fighting back against my addictions.” Eventually, his new-found faith helped set him free. And so did the gang. “I’ve got the respect to do what I want, when I want. I’m choosing the Lord. They respect that.” After surviving gang life for nearly thirty years, Rick is considered OG. He’s earned it.
“Now, I’m at a point in my life where I want to travel. I want to see the world. I did things when I was drunk and gang related, went places all by myself with no money, but I’m still here. It wasn’t easy, but I’m still here. So, why can’t I do the same thing with the faith of God, filled with the Holy Spirit? My gang life was a blessing. What once was my sin is now my gift.” He’s still in contact with many members of the gang. “My homies are my family. I reach out to them.”
But all those years living the gang life brought him into multiple contacts with the police. Repeated bad behavior can become felonious, and Rick faced a decision. “I’d been in jail plenty of times, but never prison.” So, when he was given a Boot Camp option and the chance to learn some vocational skills with Job Corps he gladly signed on, and off he was sent to Montana and, eventually, Salt Lake City. “That opened my eyes. Job Corps opened me up to different ethnicities.” Rick also learned valuable trade skills in computer aided drafting, metal fabrication and auto body work. The world became a bigger place. Not necessarily kinder, though.
After three years of living on the streets of Greeley and Denver, Rick finally decided it was time to make the change to a sober life, and “I believed with all my heart in the gospel through the blood of Jesus Christ.” He quit drinking cold-turkey and moved to Loveland in the summer of 2017. He found his way around without difficulty, or problems of any kind. “I’ve got street credit. I get along. I don’t throw God on nobody. God’s timing is the best timing.”
He does see his future in some sort of ministry, and studies the Bible and is learning expository preaching. You can tell by talking with him. He speaks easily, words flowing out his mouth without effort. “Nobody’s birth was in vain,” he says, of no one in particular.
When asked what he thinks of Loveland, his eyes light up. “I like it here. I spend a lot of time at the library, studying, and there’s always a place where you can eat. You’re not going to go hungry.” When asked about how he’s treated by the police, he says, “They checked me out, it was all good. My pride doesn’t get the best of me anymore. I don’t hate the police, they were good to me.” When asked if he noticed any gang activity in Loveland, Rick stated matter-of-factly, “You don’t have a gang problem here. You have a meth problem here.”
But Rick is comfortable in Loveland, honing “God’s will through the Holy Spirit upon my life, and learning and growing through the word of God.” He wants to learn how to play the keyboard and work on his singing voice, and someday join a worship team and travel. In the meantime, he’s living on the streets and getting to know the growing homeless population of Loveland. When asked if he has a nickname he jokes, “Not yet. That’s got to come from the community.” It will. His street presence has taken a turn for the better, and he’s aware of that. Thankful. He smiles and states his purpose. “What once was my sin is now my gift.”