Caesarei Marsh is a Case Manager for Inspiration Corporation at The Living Room Cafe. In his daily work he helps homeless and low-income Chicagoans overcome obstacles and improve their lives. Obstacles that he is all too familiar with.
Ten years ago, Caesarei might have been written off as a lost cause. One of 15 children, he grew up above a nightclub on Chicago’s south side. He dropped out of school in the third grade and got mixed up in the street life right outside his door. “I used to watch all the pimps, crooks, dope dealers…every aspect of that life. The lure was there. I wanted to be like those guys,” he says.
Caesarei developed an addiction to heroin at the age of nine after sneaking into the basement of the nightclub downstairs. He spent his teenage years navigating the politics of life on the streets until eventually ending up in prison. “I was in every gang on the Southside,” says Caesarei.
Still battling addiction after being released from prison, Caesarei drifted around the country, working odd jobs and stealing to survive. He eventually returned to Chicago to help care for his mother. It was at this point in his life that Caesarei decided that he needed to make a change.
He came to Inspiration Corporation battling addiction, homelessness, and a criminal background, with no education to speak of. But he was determined to make a change in his life, “I didn’t want to ever be ashamed, embarrassed and afraid any more. Somewhere inside me I wanted to learn. I wanted to be better.”
Caesarei attended an orientation for The Employment Project where he finally overcame his shame and skepticism and decided to accept help. “I simply said okay,” says Caesarei, “All of a sudden everything engulfed me all at once. I found peace and relief from addiction.”
Since coming through Inspiration Corporation’s doors, Caesarei has graduated from employment preparation training, earned his GED, completed a certificate in psychiatric rehabilitation from Wilbur Wright College with funding from Inspiration Corporation, and is three credit hours from completing his associate’s degree at Harold Washington College.
“I know the process I went through was worth it,” he says, reflecting on how his experiences have enabled him to connect with the participants he serves at The Living Room Cafe, “I can give somebody else what The Employment Project gave me.”
Caesarei says that his philosophy is to be ‘supportive in silence’. “Listen long enough and the client will tell you exactly how you can help. If you’ll just listen you can find a friend, as well.” Most of all, says Caesarei, “I remain teachable.”
“Help is out there, but it’s up to you,” says Caesarei.