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Running helps put former homeless men in fast lane

Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Charles Chapman and Josh McKinley (left), who are in charge of The Living Ministry are shown with Chris Hellerman and James Edmonds who are being assisted by the ministry will be running in the Pittsburgh Marathon on Sunday. The four are photographed on Wednesday April 30, 2014.

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Friday, May 2, 2014, 11:33 p.m.

James Edmonds made a tough but necessary decision when he started life anew in 2007. He found a job, an apartment and peace of mind. A year ago, he was fired. Strapped for cash, he had no place to live.

Chris Hellerman also made a choice, moving back home to care for his parents. It was full-time work. After they died, Hellerman's life fell apart.

Both men have since regained their footing, helped by the L.I.V.I.N.G. Ministry, a North Shore-based non-profit, Co-founder Charles Chapman described its mission as “uncovering hope” for the homeless.

This weekend, Edmonds and Hellerman will show their appreciation and represent the ministry in separate Pittsburgh Marathon events. It will be their first competitive races. They, along with Chapman and fellow staffers, will be joined on the ministry's two 5K and two relay teams by others who also escaped dire circumstances.

“It's like something I need to do, prove myself to the ministry,” said Hellerman, 37, who is set for Saturday's 5K event.

On Sunday, the 44-year-old Edmonds will cover the first 3.5 miles for his five-runner relay.

“If it wasn't for the ministry, we'd be out on the street,” he said. “Now we have a place to live, a place to grow and learn. There's so much that we have now that we wouldn't have. It's amazing.”

Both have trained hard. Hellerman, who stands 6-foot-6, said he weighed 385 pounds less than a year ago. He is down to 312. With all the running, walking, biking, cardio and junk-food abstinence, he has lost 22 pounds in the last six weeks.

“It's been rough,” he said. “I've never been much for working out. But I've got a new start in life. I'm trying to better myself in every way.”

“I've never done anything like this,” Edmonds said.

Edmonds left Youngstown seven years ago. A cocaine addict whose personal relationships had soured, he said he had to get out, even if it meant leaving all he had known behind.

“I kind of needed to put myself in a bad situation,” he said. “I was hurting the people around me. I sort of had to suffer to get help.”

Edmonds lived at a rescue mission, got sober and found work as a machine operator trainer. After he lost his job, he became reacquainted with Chapman, whom he met after he moved here.

“He had built this amazing ministry,” Edmonds said. “I was just blown away. This is where my life is, dealing with God strongly. I'm in love with something other than drugs and wordly things.”

Hellerman said he quit his warehouse job at 25 to be his parents' caregiver. He moved back to the family house in Avalon, where his grandmother also lived. She died in 2010. His mom died the next year. His father moved to an assisted living facility. Hellerman said he stayed with him surreptitiously, sneaking in at night. When his dad died in 2013, he said, “I was made homeless.”

He slept outside for a few days near the Ross Park Mall before police kicked him out. He eventually found work but quit after 312 months because of a commute that took hours. He was overweight and depressed before finding his way to the ministry.

Both men live in apartments paid for by the ministry and participate in a “discipleship program” that is preparing them for the rest of their lives.

“It's a six-month program helping men grow in their relationship with the Lord and life skills,” Chapman said. “To break free of homelessness and the mindset that comes with it.”

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter@BCohn_Trib.




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