The Story Behind Joshua House, "Plane and Simple"
You walk into the office of Joshua House and you feel as though you are in a dogfight or on the floor of a museum.Over head in this old school converted oasis located in the heart of Tucson, Arizona are over a dozen tissue and balsa wood war planes strategically hanging from the ceiling. This is not your typical counselor's office, it's more like a room a father and son might spend lazy afternoons in, talking and working on a hobby, and maybe planning for their futures.
This rustic oasis is the home of Joshua House, once a resort and getaway for tourists back in the fifties and sixties.This hidden jewel is now home base of operations for Joshua House, a transitional living facility for men at risk of continued homelessness and problems dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues.
The President and founder of this 501(c)3 not for profit corporation is Michael Voss. Mr. Voss is fulfilling his dream of providing services for this hidden population, to improve the quality of men's lives while teaching skills necessary to re-enter society as functional productive participants.
When I first met Mike I was unsure at best. Mike was driving a large motorcycle, hair in a ponytail and wearing a pair of black and white army fatigues. Mike looked nothing like a counselor and humanitarian, frankly, he looked like a thug or a reject from some urban street war. Then as time went on I got to know this man. Mike shared his story with me, and I learned to know a man with a dream, a vision to help lead others out of addiction and back into the safe arms of Christ.
Mike was born in Oak Park Illinois back in the "Wonder Years" of the late fifties. Mike lived with his Mother and Father, older sister Barbara, brother Tom and his twin sister Nancy on the Northwest side of Chicago. Mike was a pretty typical kid, baseball, football, boy scouts, "normal" until he started to grow and became involved in organized sports. By seventeen, Mike had grown to 6'2" 220 lbs. Suddenly the eagle Scout, alter boy had become self-absorbed, angry and out of control. The next thirteen years turned into a blur of drunkenness, drugs, violence and involvement with the law. Dangerous drug culture behaviors were the norm and Mike will be the first to tell you, if a change wasn't' made when it was, he would have been incarcerated, institutionalized or dead.
Then the first of the miracles happened. On April eleventh 1987, Mike was blessed with the birth of his Daughter Lorel. Mike promised he would clean up his act and attempt to be the same wonderful father to his daughter that his father was and is to him. It took ten months of struggling and numerous failed attempts to get clean before Mike admitted defeat to alcoholism. On February eleventh,1988 Mike put himself into a detox/rehab center. Mike has remained alcohol free for over 25 years now. A couple of years after Mike quit drinking he re-entered college to finish what he started when he left home to play college football. While in school, Mike found a love for helping others avoid the pain and suffering he endured while he was in his addiction. Mike decided he was going to be a drug counselor, and if possible work with the toughest hard case clients in the Chicago area. Mike's wish was fulfilled; he found a job working with a "Youth at risk" population , mostly gang bangers ranging from 14 to 21 years old from the Chicago area. Mike advanced from residential counselor to coordinating both intensive and basic outpatient programs that now dealt with not only the client but also his family, the court system and the clients social network.
One year later Mike's son Tyler was born and to most observers this was a happy functional marriage. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Mike struggled to be the best counselor he could be while always improving his skills in helping this population but was now exhibiting traits of codependency as he had to hide the facts from society, as well as his family and in-laws, that his wife was an active drug user with questionable social behaviors. The hypocrisy of counseling young adults on the dangers of drug abuse then going home to the same dysfunction was too much for him to bear. Mike was faced with the most difficult decision of his life. He divorced his wife of twelve years and moved into a small apartment eight miles away, this way he could remain in contact with his children and hopefully his wife would realize the seriousness of the situation. The opposite happened;the ex-wives behaviors became worse. Mike was forced to make a life changing decision, should he stay and enable the behaviors? be at risk of relapse and losing everything he had worked so hard to achieve? Mike Prayed...
Knowing he would give into the pressures of codependency and the knowing that his children had a twelve year foundation of a good father, Mike agreed to take a job offer at the Arizona Prison complex located in Tucson,Arizona. Mike spent his first two years in Tucson counseling inmates on their personal issues, drug education, life skills and all topics necessary to help the inmate re-enter society as functional productive participants. Then it happened.......funding for the prison based program Mike worked for was discontinued. Mike was now faced with the realization that within a couple months he was going to be unemployed.
Mike refused to work for any of the Tucson based programs. Over the last two years working inside the prison system, Mike had witnessed the outrageous recidivism rate for the released inmates. Mike did research by watching the existing programs here in Tucson and formulated a program that is a compilation of his travels and the programs he coordinated, with the goal of maximizing the clients chance of not re-offending and remaining alcohol and drug free.
Over the next year Mike dedicated his time to formulate a program to help all people, not just the recently released inmate from the prison, but anyone that needed a structured living environment and education to remain alcohol and drug free. Mike had a plan, a good plan and a great program but no place suitable to house this population.
Mike searched day and night to find a facility site that would best serve this population. After nearly one year of viewing unsuitable properties, Mike was at his wits end and out of money. This man was surviving on grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for months, hoping, Praying that God would lead him to the perfect facility site. Then a miracle, on the last day of searching, on the last night before Mike was to be forced economically to get a job at one of the local mental health providers, he got a call.
As the sun was setting Mike got a call from one of the local property managers giving Mike directions to a vacated property. At this point Mike's level of enthusiasm was extremely low. Mike took the address and drove to the possible site. As he entered the property it was very dark and all Mike could make out visually was the outline of overgrown bushes and what looked like Jurassic Park.
Then it happened...the cloud cover that was keeping the property dark and un-distinguishable opened up just enough for a ray of the full moon to totally illuminate the main courtyard. There it was in all it's possibility, the perfect size, shape and architecture to run Joshua House. It was as if The Lord made Mike wait till the last day. Perhaps because Mike teaches his residents a phrase his father taught him as a child, " One's ability to delay gratification make the bread taste sweeter". Mike then pooled his resources and somehow got enough money to lease the property. Eight moths of clean-up, typically sixteen hours a day and Joshua House was ready to open it's doors. Most of Mike's peers in the field recommended that Joshua House work with the local funding source CPSA. Mike refused stating he had seem numerous well intent programs become ineffective because of obligations to the funding / referral source.
Mike said that he would let God decide. He refused to become obligated to anyone, and all he cared about was the resident's desire to learn how to become alcohol/drug free and an openness to live in a Christian based environment. Joshua House has been Blessed. Over the last ten years of operations, Joshua House has earned the best reputation in Tucson, for helping the homeless, mentally challenged, and those struggling with dysfunction caused by substance abuse and alcohol.
Without obligations to the primary funding sources, no grant money, just a personal commitment to excellence, Michael has achieved his dream....
A Word From Michael:
We are now entering our eleventh year of operations in Tucson. We spent seven years at the first site ( 7 is the year of completion) and in our eighth year ( the year of new beginnings ) we made a move to our site on Geronimo Street. Joshua House continues to be Blessed. Somehow, without obligation to funding sources, we pay our bills and continue to serve those in need, the addicted to alcohol and drugs and those in need of a structured environment that serves God without apology. Amen !
I 'm blessed to have the privilege to educate our residents in a manner that leads them away from past negative behaviors and into the safe and loving arms of our Jesus. This is a responsibility that I do not take lightly.. In the early years of Joshua House I was given a Biblical scripture from above ( really ) ! I went to my Bible to learn what The Lord was telling me....He gave me Romans 5:19
" For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man's obedience many will be made righteous."
I understood, clearly, that this "Word" was meant for me, with the instructions as how to proceed...
As always, and without apology, I will continue to serve God and all of His children to the best of my ability. I will utilize The Word of God, clinical training and an experiential base to lead those in need away from past destructive behaviors.
With Love, as always.
V.S., B.A.,LISAC, CADC
On April 14th, 2012 My Beloved Wife and business partner Deborah Kay passed from this life into the loving arms of our Jesus.
Although Debbie's physically removed from us, her Spirit and loving influence upon me and Joshua House will always remain. I will always be grateful for the ten years God gave her to me.
Debbie was responsible for helping change Joshua House into a Christian based program as well as helping me re-establish my relationship with Jesus. What greater gift can a person give to another ? I like to think that I was her last assignment on this earth before going home to Jesus.
One of the last things Debbie said to me before she went home was, "When my time comes, she would meet me at the gate, and she would bring my mother with her" I believe she will............
The mission of Joshua House today
is dedicated to the spirit of Deborah Kay