For Marcus, it was a life-changing bus ride.

That’s where he heard about Better Futures Minnesota, and how it helped with housing, job skills, health care. How it helped men who wanted to change get where they wanted to be. How it helped someone feel better, be better.  “I knew right then it was something I wanted to do,” he says.

Marcus started showing up at Better Futures every Friday, asking how he could participate, asking to sit in with group therapy and be a part of a process of getting to a better place. Soon, he was accepted as a participant in the Better Futures community. Four years later, he’s a leader and mentor at Better Futures.

When you first came to Better Futures that one Friday, what were your goals? What did you want to achieve?

I wanted to get stability. I wanted to be able to get my own place, work my own job, keep my child support paid up, balance my banking account. I wanted be a better person, a better man. Strive for the best.

What were some of the first things you learned about how to achieve those goals?

Really focusing on what you want to get out of the program. Not just go through the program to get a place or to get a job–but there is going to be a life after that. You have to be motivated to do better. In a minute, you’re going to be right back where you started. You have to really focus every day.

What was different about Better Futures? What made you come back those Fridays after learning about it?

I am from Texas, and there is nothing there like this. It’s really about the way you feel love with the staff. I feel like I can get the right advice. I can trust everyone. Having that…a lot of people don’t like to express themselves, especially men….and it’s nice being able to express yourself to another man and not be afraid of feedback.

Being able to talk to the staff here, it makes me focused. They are coming here every day to help us. They want you to succeed. That’s a really good plus about this program. It feels really like family. Not like you’re going to school or a job or a program.

I see how people break their backs for you. It touches my heart. It makes me want to be better.

What advice would you give someone first entering into Better Futures?

You have to change things. You have to change your surroundings. You have to change your mind frame. You have to really want to do positive things. You have to be around people you can honestly trust and talk to.

Stay focused. Anything is a challenge, but it’s worth fighting for.

How did you stay focused? What motivated you?

Change and focus are two beautiful words to me. If you don’t want to change, you can’t be focused on these things, and if you aren’t focused, you can’t change. I got to the point, giving up is not an option. I see all these people trying to make my life better. And that’s a beautiful thing right there.

I am going to be 40 years old, and my child support is caught up. I’m proud of that! You don’t want to be 40-, 50-, 60-years old and thousands of dollars behind. I’m proud that this program has made me better. My kids even like me better. I’m proud of that, too. It’s worked a little boy into a man.

What other goals have you achieved so far?

I have a job. I got my own place, I’ve been in it for a year and a half. I make sure my rent is paid on time. And it feels great. Because I know how hard it was for this staff to help me get where I am at.

What’s your favorite thing about having your own place?

That I can make my own dinner. I can read a book. I can just focus on whatever I need to do or feel like doing. Let me mind just leave my body sometimes and say…”You’ve come a looong way.”

I’m still growing. I’m still growing every day. But I just keep that in my mind every day and don’t let nothing get in the way. I came way to far for that now.