Before Dietrich came to Inspiration Corporation he had been homeless for more than three years and out of the workforce for more than ten. His problems were rooted in an addiction to heroin.
He started using when a woman that he was in a relationship with offered him the drug. “I blame myself,” says Dietrich, “because I could’ve said ‘no’.”
For years Dietrich made enough money to maintain his addiction by what he describes as hustling: selling wholesale goods like socks, scarves and hats on the side of the street. His addiction required constant maintenance. Dietrich estimates that he earned and spent about $30 a day, every day, for years on heroin. “You can’t function without it,” he says, “You have to wake up with it.”
Unlike many of Inspiration Corporation’s clients, Dietrich never moved from using to selling, never had to steal or commit crimes to get his fix, and managed to stay out of prison. Even so, his living conditions gradually deteriorated. When his apartment building burned down, he was forced to move into a shelter.
He realized that he needed to fundamentally alter his circumstances if he wanted to have a better life. “I had to make a change,” he says, “I was sick and tired of ‘sick and tired’.”
Dietrich heard about the Inspiration Kitchens food service training program from another resident of the shelter where he was staying. Dietrich had significant work experience in the culinary industry, as a dishwasher and cook at a hamburger joint, a cook at an elementary school, and had even completed 6-months of school at Cordon Bleu as a younger man. He decided to take a chance and attend orientation.
Dietrich appreciated the training, “I knew some of the stuff, but I learned new things.” He also appreciated working with Chef Sharon. “She had a lot of patience,” he says, “When I came to this place, they took care of me.”
Dietrich impressed the staff at Inspiration Kitchens – Uptown so much that Inspiration Corporation offered him a part-time job as a kitchen coordinator when he graduated. He worked at Inspiration Cafe for three years, doing other odd jobs on the side, and loved every minute. He says that no matter how tired he felt, and no matter how early he had to get up in the morning, he was always happy the moment he walked into Inspiration Cafe.
As a kitchen coordinator, Dietrich helped Inspiration Cafe volunteer cooks like Mike Kuhn prepare and serve breakfast for Inspiration Corporation participants. Over the years that they worked together on Wednesday mornings, Mike came to appreciate Dietrich’s abilities and disposition, and when a friend told Mike that he was looking to hire cooks at Smith & Wollensky downtown, Mike suggested that Dietrich apply.
With a strong reference behind him, Dietrich got the job and has been working full time since June. Dietrich enjoys the work and can’t believe how quickly time has passed since he started working.
Dietrich is building the foundations for a new life. “I had to learn how to take care of myself,” he says.
“If you want to change your life, get a job, get back into the workforce, it’s a good program,” he says in his characteristically reserved and soft-spoken way.