Felton's Story

Feb 20, 2024 | by Rebecca Turnbull

Becoming a parent is life-changing. It changes just about everything, from non-existent sleep and endless grocery lists to unwanted wall “artwork” and weekends overrun by playdates and minivans. Felton is an example of how becoming a father gave him a second chance for a new beginning.

Felton is no stranger to the concept that life is a rollercoaster: it celebrates the highs and offers reflection during the lows. This became clear to him when he became a father to a beautiful little girl named Talia on Juneteenth 2018. Because of his living situation and lack of stable housing, Talia’s mom retained full custody.

Despondent that he was not with his daughter and choosing to sit in his fate rather than change it, Felton ended up moving from shelter to shelter in Richmond. He sought assistance from the Greater Continuum of Care’s Housing Connection Hotline, and as space became available, found refuge at Home Again, Caritas and The Salvation Army Central Virginia. He continued to do so throughout the rest of 2018 and most of 2019. He was not motivated and securing permanent housing and a stable job remained elusive. By his admission, he couldn’t visualize the long game and instead lived day-to-day, hoping for a change but not taking the necessary steps to change.

It was not until circumstances in Talia’s mom’s life brought Felton the opportunity he could have only dreamed of – to be reunited with Talia full time. Ready to say yes, he knew that shuttling between shelters and the street was no way to raise a child. This was Felton’s second chance. This was his new beginning.

The difference this time is that he could visualize the long game. He was motivated and had a plan of action. Felton recounts: “This second chance changed me. I was going to do everything in my power to be a constant in her life and provide a consistent, stable lifestyle.” James Joyce said that “mistakes are the portal to discovery,” and instead of repeating the mistake, Felton stepped through the portal to change his circumstances. Failure was not an option this time, and he attributes his fear of failure as to what keeps him going.

In November 2019, he found himself at a familiar place – the front steps of The Salvation Army Central Virginia – but this time he had a newfound outlook and was motivated. Case Manager Donnell Wright noted a marked difference in Felton’s approach during this stay. “This time, Felton wanted to better his own life to better his daughter’s life. The Salvation Army gave him access to any resources to do so – including financial planning and employment guidance – and he utilized them. Felton saved his money to build up a reserve for future rent payments and registered with temp agencies to gain stable employment. He was hired on the building maintenance and services team at VCU hospital and worked private security – anything to demonstrate a regular flow of income.”

Felton was approved for Rapid Re-Housing in December 2019, and worked closely with his Rapid Re-Housing Housing Navigator and Case Manager Wright to maintain a good standing with current paperwork, so that when an apartment became available, he could be handed the keys without delay. COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions did not hinder Felton, as he remained focused on his commitment to bettering his and his daughter’s future. In April 2020, he walked out of The Salvation Army Central Virginia without any intention of returning. He has kept that promise.

Rapid Re-Housing is a bridge and serves as an intermediary to assist an individual in becoming housing secure. Felton successfully bridged this transition four years ago and continues to be self-sufficient today. Not only has Felton obtained stable employment and income, but also he has full custody of Talia. He is living his dream, which is being a present and engaged father in Talia’s life.

Felton has returned to the offices at 2 W. Grace Street, but not as a resident – as a success story. Felton acknowledges that he had to put in the work to get to where he is, but he also knows that being a parent means leaning into resources in the community, including an opportunity for Talia to benefit from the generosity of Angel Tree donors. “As a parent, you want to give your kids the world. I haven’t gotten to where I am by being an island and refusing help. I’m not afraid of asking for help, especially if that means I won’t fail my daughter,” Felton said.

Felton is proud to share that Talia is an active and energetic kindergartener who loves school, loves tickling the ivories on her keyboard and loves coming home to their two-bedroom apartment. Their home and shared memories serve as a daily reminder of the commitment he made before his last stay at The Salvation Army Central Virginia shelter – a commitment he upholds every day.

Felton got his second chance, and for that, he is grateful. The only path now, is forward.

“Restore the joy of my youth and create in me a clean heart.”  ~ Psalms 51:12

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