Paying It Forward: How Committing to Their Community Helped Joe and Sammie Overcome The Churn
Joe and Sammie Royos beamed as their children climbed over them and bounced off the living room couches. Their warm home was decorated for Christmas, and you could tell they were soaking in the joy of their comfortable family life.
The Royos family had taken a long, winding path to reach this place in their lives. They worked for everything they had. They fought addiction and fear and hopelessness. And together they built a beautiful life—from the ground up.
“It’s like I didn’t grow up until I was 48,” Joe said. “I failed to get through so many programs and would always end up back in addiction. But Solutions for Change finally closed that chapter of my life.”
“We get to just live,” Sammie added. “We get to live honestly. No stealing, no homelessness, no crime. Just an honest family home."
Sammie was the first to go to Solutions for Change. She had met Joe when they were both still struggling with addiction and homelessness, and they were desperately trying to find a way out of The Churn. Sammie was at the end of her rope.
“Even though I was one year sober when I found Solutions, I still felt stuck in the same life," Sammie said. "I wanted to be a better parent. I wanted to chase my career goals. But I didn’t know how.”
So Sammie and her children moved to the Solutions for Change campus and began Solutions Academy. Immediately, Sammie could tell there was something different about Solutions. They seemed truly committed to helping her build a new life.
“When you’re at Solutions, you have to work. That’s how you learn how to be a reliable employee and how you build your confidence,” Sammie said. “They show you that you can provide for your family, but beyond that—they want you to be a well-rounded, healthy person.”
Knowing Solutions had her best interest at heart, Sammie felt comfortable going to her case manager to share a big dream she was ready to pursue. Sammie wanted to go back to nursing school. She dropped out years ago, but now felt secure enough to continue that path—all while working through Solutions Academy.
“My case manager made it clear that I had to participate in all the Solutions Academy work and activities to keep staying at Solutions, but she also could see how passionate I was,” Sammie said. “So we worked out a deal where I go to school during the day and do my Solutions work at night. I don’t know if I could have managed that level of responsibility without Solutions’ accountability.”
While Sammie was getting a foothold in a new life, Joe was ready to join her and give Solutions a try. Like Sammie, he was immediately struck by the responsibility and accountability Solutions expected from him.
“I inquired about joining Sammie at Solutions, but that didn’t mean I could move in right away,” Joe said. “They drug tested me for a month before I could come on campus. Then two weeks before move-in, they had me start working at Solutions Farms. Solutions expected a lot from me, but as soon as that trust was established, I got their trust in return.”
“Yeah, there’s no lull or break at Solutions,” Sammie affirmed. “You hit the ground running. You take the kids to school, go to work, go to class and take care of your stuff. The staff’s help and trust pulls you along.”
Joe was especially impacted by the way the Solutions team believed in him. He came into the program untrusting and world-weary, so he couldn’t quite see why anyone would invest in him.
“I came in broken. I had never given life a shot before because I didn’t think I had anyone who really cared,” Joe said. “When I got in a fight that almost got the whole family kicked out of Solutions, that was a big wake-up call for me. Solutions was holding me accountable for my actions, but from a place of love. They didn’t attack me; they saw the value in me and wanted me to see it too.”
“Through Solutions, you realize that you can’t afford to give up anymore, because your family relies on you,” Sammie said. “And this community cares about you.”
From that day on, the Royos family embraced the Solutions for Change community and grew into a happier, healthier family. Their three years at Solutions flew by, and they have established a life for themselves.
Sammie got her nursing degree and now works at a family recovery center. She often refers her clients to Solutions so they can rebuild their life skills after she helps them overcome addiction.
“I now ask my clients what they want to be when they grow up,” Sammie said. “I don’t care if it sounds silly. I want my clients to know that they are worthy of big dreams and Solutions can help make them happen—like they did for me.”
Joe is a foreman at his electrical company and loves what he does. And even though he and Sammie have moved on from Solutions, they still take every opportunity to give back to the community that gave them so much.
“Now that we’ve been given a new life, we have to pay it forward by leading by example,” Joe said. “Solutions shows us that our purpose is to serve each other. And serving others is where we have found the most happiness in our lives.”
On any given Friday, you’ll find Joe barbecuing in the Solutions parking lot. He’ll grill up some ribs and share advice with the current Solutions residents. Joe and Sammie are boldly advocating for Solutions pretty much everywhere they go—hoping other families find the same sense of community that changed their lives.
Right now, they’re looking forward to next year’s Breaking & Entering, the Solutions Christmas tradition where volunteers surprise residents by filling their apartments with gifts, food and Christmas decorations.
“In my addiction, I spent a lot of holidays alone, so I know how lonely it is to fight your way out of homelessness,” Sammie said. “But through Breaking & Entering, I can show Solutions residents that they deserve the community, warmth and love of Christmas. And by paying that feeling forward, it’s kinda like experiencing Christmas for the first time.”