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Growing up in Montreal, Canada, Sylvain’s life was anything but normal. “I lived in an orphanage,” says Sylvain. “I don’t have any family that I know of. I’ve been on my own since I was 14 years old, when I left the orphanage and started working.” Since that time, Sylvain has traveled around Canada and the United States, mostly by bicycle.
Following a dream to travel across the United States, Sylvain embarked upon a journey by bicycle that took him almost two months to complete, traveling from Canada to Panama City Beach. “It was a dream I had and when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it,” he says. “I ended up staying in Florida for three years. One day I just knew it was time to go, so I got on my bike and headed north.”
When his bicycle broke down in Nashville and he discovered it was beyond repair, Sylvain started looking for shelter, a place to shower and food to eat. A kind stranger pointed him to Nashville Rescue Mission. “This isn’t the first time I’ve stayed in a shelter,” says Sylvain. “After Hurricane Katrina, I went to New Orleans for two months. I lived at a shelter and helped them rebuild the third floor of their building. After that I went back to Florida.”
“I’m so glad someone showed me the way to the Mission,” he says. “Not only did I have my basic needs met, like food, clothing and shelter, but I made a lot of friends and learned so much in the process.” Sylvain’s stay at Nashville Rescue Mission lasted exactly 226 days.
In less than a month, Sylvain found a job working with a moving company. It didn’t take long for him to save up enough money to buy himself a new bicycle. This time, instead of hitting the road again, Sylvain decided to enroll in the Mission’s Pathways to Work program—a program that allowed Sylvain the time and opportunity to work, save money and make plans to move into his own place.
“I can’t tell you how excited I was to move into my own apartment,” says Sylvain. “I could not have done it without the help I received from the Mission. I was able to save money, get a new bicycle, find a job, have a safe place to sleep, food to eat, a place to shower… I’ve been so blessed by this outpouring of generosity.
Sylvain moved into his apartment in March. Since then, he’s found a better job working security at Bridgestone Arena. He still rides his bicycle from his apartment in West Nashville to work and wherever he needs to go. From time to time he stops by the Mission to visit with friends and say hello.
“I’m so grateful,” says Sylvain. “I’m not sure what I would have done or where I would have gone had someone not pointed me to the Mission. Staying at the Mission was a wonderful experience for me. Nashville is starting to feel a little bit like home.

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