“I grew up in Chicago in a high rise apartment building,” Vincent Talley says, “I learned early about how to hustle from my shoe shine box.”
He also learned, he says, “how to drink, do drugs, and be with women.”
The apartment where everyone congregated,” he says, “belonged to a woman named, Tiny. It’s where all the pimps and drug dealers hung out.”
“Usually,” Talley says, “it was safe, but the one time there was violence on our floor was when this guy got his brains blown out. We had to step over his dead body. You always knew when violence happened in the building because they shut down the elevators. If the elevator didn’t run, you knew something had happened.”
He was living with his mother at the time in Chicago, and, fearing for her son’s safety, his mother sent him back to Blytheville, Arkansas where the family had its roots.
Blytheville remained his home. And it was also his base for his main business, which was selling crack cocaine. It was lucrative.
“I flew under the radar,” he says. “I always drove other people’s cars. I never had a license. I got arrested now and then, but no one ever testified. They knew better. So I never spent much time in Jail.”
Then, one day in early August of 2015, it all came to an abrupt end. That was when the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation named “Blyned Justus” converged on Blytheville with 521 law enforcement officers including the FBI and tactical officers. It eventually led to 70 arrests including Talley.
“They came in with tanks, and burned houses down,” Tally remembers. “At the press conference they called us the most violent criminals in the history of the Delta.”
When Talley remembers that fateful day, a day most would have viewed as the end, a contented smile forms on his face, “I was relieved.” he says, “It was finally over. It was like I was out of the darkness. I could see the light. The police weren’t after me anymore because they had me. It was like every debt I owed was right there. It was divine intervention.
“I was going to take whatever they gave me because of the relief I felt. When they said 20 to 40 (years) I was shocked. But I was still OK because I had this glorious warm feeling that it was over. It’s hard to explain, but I still have that same feeling.”
When he was released, Talley was supposed to be sent back to Blytheville, which, he says, “would have likely put me right back in the darkness.”
But as he sat waiting at the prison for the van to pick him up, it never arrived, and they sent him to Little Rock instead. That led him to the Union Rescue Mission, which led to meeting Mandy David and becoming the custodian for Jehrico Way and into his new home on Heather Lane.
Move divine intervention,” Talley says of the van not showing up to take him back to Blytheville.
Last summer he did return to east Arkansas for a reconciliation with his mom.
“My mom is barely five feet tall, but she hugged me so tight when she saw me and just rocked me,” he says. “It was so emotional. I wasn’t expecting that.”
Talley’s oldest brother, who had lived a similar life of crime, passed away from a heart attack years ago.
“I saw him before he died,” Talley says. “he had turned his life around. When we met that last time I was still in the darkness, but he had found the light. Now I’ve made it to the light. It’s an amazing thing.”
Some hard work from his attorney, Chris Palmer, got Talley’s sentence reduced to five years. That along with time served, good behavior and two years probation meant Talley would spend one year in the federal correctional institution in Forest City.
Jointly funded by Little Rock and North Little Rock, Jehrico Way was established to identify and provide resources and services for those in need with the ultimate goal of ending homelessness. In the short term, the newly located facility, Jehrico, is focusing on creating opportunities for local clients to get jobs, providing a safe place for homeless individuals to access case management services and gain access to other resources.
Jehrico Way is a welcome and promising addition to Little Rock’s homeless landscape which includes the Union Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army and the privately held Compassion Center founded by minister (first name) Holloway, and his wife, Rosemary, a minister herself. The Center consists of two homeless shelters in Little Rock—one on Roosevelt Road and the other on Asher Avenue—with up to 250 or more men, women, and children under sixty-three thousand square feet of roof.
Compassion Center admits everyone—men, women, women with children, and sometimes even a husband and wife with children—and it’s free. The only requirement is that they are sober and not carrying a weapon.
In all of these resources, the goal is not simply abstinence. They advocate the goal of totally transformed lives—lives free from addiction and filled with opportunities for full and complete participation in society.