We had the honor to interview James Douglas Lewis Jr., (a.k.a. Jimmie), who shared his journey from experiencing homelessness to starting a successful business in Waco, Texas.
Jimmie served in the Navy from 1981 to 1984. Eight years ago, Jimmie was imprisoned in Alabama for a crime he didn’t commit. While in jail, he made a critical decision. “I had a ‘come-to-Jesus’ moment and pleaded with God to set me free, promising, ‘If you can get me out of this then I’m going to do everything I can to help other people get out of the same situation I’m in, in return.'” he said.
Jimmie was exonerated in 2018, found not guilty and his record was wiped clean. He walked out of jail with $10 in his pocket and the clothes on his back. He met the woman who would become his wife, Nancy, over social media. She reached out to Jimmie because she needed help as her son was also charged for a crime he didn’t commit. She happened to live in Texas. Jimmie made the decision to move out to Texas, with only $236 in his name. He was dedicated to helping Nancy and her son, hoping he would be able to figure everything else out along the way.
When he arrived, Jimmie stayed in bad motels in dangerous areas for a month. He was surfing from motel room to motel room, when he learned about the services available at the Heart of Texas Region MHMR and Veterans Affairs.
“I didn’t know if it was going to work out, but everything started coming together,” he said.
With Nancy’s encouragement, Jimmie called the VA center and met Mike Ormsby who helped him get into temporary housing. He met some incredible people at HOTRMHMR and the Veterans Affairs office while he was in their program receiving room and board for 7 months.
“I believe that God had intervened, and this program works! These people were my savior. They were there every morning, helping me. From the moment I walked in, I knew I was safe, and they treated me like I was their family. This program gave me an opportunity to get my feet on the ground,” he said.
During his time at the VA, Jimmie worked hard, sometimes 18 hours a day to start his business, the Center for Factual Innocence. “It hasn’t been easy, but with God’s grace, I made it. Here we are 2.5 years out, and I have a beautiful wife and a beautiful life,” he said.
Today, Jimmie owns a home which he bought on January 31, 2019, has 8 adopted dogs, has purchased a brand new car, started a business (the Center for Factual Innocence), and loves his beautiful wife, Nancy. The Center for Factual Innocence has 60 cases across 28 states and made $100,000 in revenue last year. His best friend is a retired state police officer.
Jimmie is a big believer in HOTRMHMR and the VA, and lives his life as a walking testimony that someone can get out of homelessness with help, encouragement and the right support. “If anybody says that they can’t do it, I’m the one that will stand in front of a room and say that they can. We can get there. You’ll need a little encouragement, but keep working hard and doing what you’re doing. Anyone can turn their life around, I’m living proof,” he said.