Jim Rouches is a very busy man.
He’s the Director of Program Services at Harvest House overseeing the Freedom and VETS programs, including 121 lives. He spends time in our local jails at least twice a week, working with individuals in the re-entry and substance abuse pods, and bringing innovative new programs such as art therapy to the inmates. Jim leads the Substance Abuse and Addiction Education classes once a week for homeless populations at the Salvation Army and he teaches Addiction Education and Behavior Modification classes for Harvest House 2 evenings each week. He is a Minister at the Harvest Church on Wednesday nights for clients in the Freedom program. He is the co-founder of Tap Out Now and is working diligently to get the app established in local county jails. He serves on the Criminal Justice Commission and on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Planning Council for Sarasota County, and he attends court regularly as (1) an advocate for substance abuse treatment for general populations in lieu of incarceration for low-risk nonviolent offenders and (2) on behalf of clients for progress and status updates.
On top of all of this, he is a wonderful husband and father of 4 children, incredibly intelligent, and an active defender of justice.
On Thursday afternoon, as Harvest House staff and clients are prepping for the possibility of Hurricane Dorian havoc, Jim Rouches is as busy as ever. All of a sudden, a man who has clearly been on the streets for a while walks into the office. Our intake specialist recognized him as someone we previously served a few years ago. He gained meaningful employment, graduated from the Freedom program, and moved into permanent housing. Unfortunately, he didn’t stay connected to his support system. The loneliness and persistent mental health issues drove him back to his alcohol addiction. When he walked into the office, he was unrecognizable – he was hot, unshaven, and dehydrated. In the middle of Jim running around, Jim stops to greet the man, gives him a cold drink and a snack, and asks if he could give him a haircut. The man accepted with tears in his eyes; he knew that this was a safe place for him to come. Executive Director Erin Minor always says, “This is who we are. We’re family. Once you’re here, you’re family and whatever your needs look like, we’ll be there for you.”
Jim set down the stack of paperwork in his hands, grabbed the clippers and a chair, and took the man outside to help him get cleaned up.
When he’s finished, the man looks like a completely different person – not just because of the haircut, but because a sense of dignity was immediately restored by Jim’s small, yet wildly compassionate act. Later that evening, Jim was asked by a colleague why he decided to stop his busy day to give someone a haircut – when the haircut could have waited.
Jim said, “you know when we see a baby with those cute little chubby cheeks and everyone wants to love and love and love on him? It’s much harder to see the baby inside of a weathered man, but when we do, we are able to extend compassion to a person beyond anything that’s on the exterior. When I saw him, something showed me the baby underneath the scruff. Something told me to stop for the one because he needed that compassion.”
No matter how busy you are, taking the time to stop for the one and allowing yourself to see people as the little baby they once were can truly transform lives.