Like the inspirational sign at the shelter says, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” Nate Batiste is not looking back. Instead, Nate is claiming the person he “always knew was inside.” Initially, Dave Blunt, Operations Director, rejected the idea of hiring Nate. But Dave came back and said, “You know what, I’ve seen a change in Nate. I’ll give him a shot as a floater.” Sometimes change happens from the outside- in, through routine and training that reinforce the individual’s character. Now Nate is full-time, second shift. Nate has a peace and solidity that words alone cannot express.
Where did it all start?
A deep sigh, then Nate jumps right in…
I can tell you about a criminal background and a homeless background. It starts when we’re kids growing up. How we’re raised. What we’re introduced to. You know, the influences as a child and the peer pressure of wanting to fit in. As far as me coming from a criminal background, it’s how I was born and raised. I was born as I was, when I came out the womb. It was like uncontrollable. I got involved as a child, a little baby, I was still in diapers, everything. I’m growing up in the Projects, not being taught the things I need to do to be successful, to be a part of society. Living in the projects, getting involved in criminal activities was natural, already a part of me coming out the womb. You know what I’m saying?
So, when I got old enough, my life was already set. I felt like I had no control over getting involved in the things I got involved in. I felt driven…substance abuse problems. Everybody don’t start that early but I was introduced to everything as a child. Getting involved in criminal activity brings a certain comfort. If you’re a criminal and you don’t do these things, you won’t be accepted.
How Does It Stop?
Your only hope is God. It’s the only way out…out of the streets. mother tried to put church on me at a young age. But even as a kid, I considered myself a man, my own man. And can’t nobody tell me what to do, not even my own parents. My mother worked right across the street at a nursing home from the CMHA property we were living on…worked hard to support us. While she was at work I was always ripping and running the streets. I be out until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, hanging with the crowd, older people…just involved in things I knew I was going to regret later on. I did what I want. I ended up going to Juvenile Court at 13, and they sent me to ODYS (Ohio Department of Youth Services, a correctional facility for juveniles). Stayed there four and a half years.
You knew you were going to regret?
I already knew. Not just from my grandmother and people telling me that. But like I was terrible, terrible, off the chain as a child. My grandmother used to tell me I’m going to regret it later, and I absolutely did.
Do My Time…Stay Out of The Way
Growing up I had reality check after reality check…you know how ‘a hard head makes a sore behind.’ I didn’t want to listen…catching misdemeanor charges which is like workhouse time. But then, it got serious. I started catching felonies and almost ended up spending, you know basically, life in prison. But God had mercy on me. God was the biggest wakeup call ever.
How did you get out of prison?
I did time but to escape a longer sentence, I took a deal with the prosecutor. I just went with the deal because I had no other way out. The deal was “Take four years, come home in four years.” Before they were trying to give me 17 years. I just wanted it done. Do my time, come home, put my life in order, give back to society. Pay my debt with God and anybody else I hurt in my life. Just to give back, ‘man up,’ be a father, be a grandfather, you know, just stay out of the way. I’m getting too old, still got a lot to live, that’s what really got me going. Motivated.
How old were you when you got out?
26 or 27. When I got out of prison in 2009, I stayed with my mother. But then I went on the run and caught an escape charge for not reporting. They sent me back one more year for violation. After that, I was still catching misdemeanors, sent to the workhouse…but I finally made it here to 2100, after all that.
2100 and a new way of thinking
After I got out of prison this time, my mother brought me down here. Somebody had told her about this place. When I arrived, I wasn’t focused, but when I became a WEP (Work Experience Program) worker, it took me to a whole other level. I saw the opportunity, and the staff were telling me to take it and run. Support, Encouragement, Love, Trust, Respect. An opportunity for positivity. Before I got here, I wasn’t used to working. I adapted quick and began to love it. I always had a desire to work, and I gave it my all. I still do today as a staff Monitor. I take my job very seriously.
All that positivity, and you’re changing with it.
Yeah, every day, I’m becoming more of who I’m supposed to be. I had my ups and downs, but you know, I just got tired and surrendered to God, you know. I talked with God and said I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in jail, you know? I believe there is a God, and He made a way for me to get on up out of here. God knew my heart. God knew I was ready and tired with what I was going through…the struggling, the poverty. I got tired of all that. God gave me another chance. I got an opportunity here at 2100. Ever since then, I ain’t looked back. Living the good life. A decent life, as long as I stay focused.
All that positivity
You know, I’m comfortable with who I am now. I’d rather keep moving forward than go back and start at rock bottom. No guarantee at rock bottom I’d ever have the opportunity of living a good life again.
I see you setting an example around here.
I tell people, you got to watch the environment you’re hanging around and things that you do. You’re going to end up in a world of trouble. I switched up the places that I hung at, the people I hung around, I switched my focus on doing more positive. Now all I do is work, take care of home, and I got my family as a support system. You know, I’m good. Everyone I work with is in my corner…has been in my corner since Day One. All I’m focused on now is doing the right thing. I got tired of having law enforcement looking for me, having warrants. All of that, for real.
Got to Have an Exit Plan
That’s just to touch base with the criminal background, but as far as homelessness, I be telling guys when they walk in here, “You got to have a plan.” If you have no plan, you’re going to be here for a while. All the resources and opportunities are here. Take advantage of them. Grab a hold of whatever you can. If you have an exit plan, you never have to worry about coming back here.
What do you think you uniquely bring to the job?
I understand everything these guys are going through. I was homeless and here 4 or 5 years, a long time. I feel like I bring a whole other level of respect on 2nd shift. It’s just more disciplined. Me being in and out of incarceration starting as a juvenile, they beat us with discipline…walk in a straight line, have our hands checked behind our back…some form of bootcamp military. I bring all of that with me as far as structure. I enforce everything because you’ve got to have respect for one another. I do my job correctly, no half-stepping, no weaknesses. That’s what I do.
Being on full time staff, 2nd shift Monitor, I’m one of the strongest, and everybody else knows that. If they can’t make something happen as far as a resident acting out, I can. Somebody out of control, they know they can count on me to de-escalate. Not just that, but to make people feel comfortable, safe.
That’s how you’ve always made me feel
Yeah, yeah, just to be able to go a whole eight-hour shift and have no problems at all. There might be a mental health crisis or somebody need EMS, but as far as having a crazy, out of control shift, no… there’s order and discipline. You know what I’m saying?
I Got That Love in My Heart
Today I wake up and I know I have something to prove. Keeping my promises to people not to go back to the things I was doing. Keeping my mother and my family happy and proud. Just knowing I got something to prove, because growing up I was doing everything that failures do, running wild. As I got older, I started feeling like that failure. But, I really did care. I had that love in my heart and actually felt it… different for someone who’s careless and cold hearted and never going to care about the people they hurt. Staying here at 2100, I’ve cried and shed tears. Everybody staying here doesn’t know I shed tears. They always thought I wasn’t the type of person who cried. But the pain really hurts when I think about everything in my life. You know what I’m saying?
I spend a lot of personal time praying just to strengthen me. I gave my whole heart to God, I mean my whole heart. For people here, I just give them that love and plant the seed. I let them know God is there to carry on the rest of their life. When I say something about God, people here trust me enough to know I’m not lying. They know I ain’t going to sugar coat nothing. They want to be where I’m at someday. They see me and know nothing’s impossible. It doesn’t have to end here in a homeless shelter or prison. Yeah, just the beginning. I see myself getting older…
Getting older…I realize Nate may not have considered this a possibility before.
I got my housing…God is so good. He put me in a real house, just to be out of the way. I’m here on staff. I never complain one time about being here.
God Was Always with Me
Even as a child, I felt God… needed God. Even when I was bullying on other kids- I felt something deep down inside. I had a problem when other kids would make me mad. I had a problem… just hitting them, not thinking about the consequences, not thinking twice. When I was still young, I hit a guy and broke his jaw in twenty some places. I felt bad afterwards. This was while I was at Ohio Department of Youth Services. I spent 6 months in isolation as my consequence. But I felt bad just seeing the evidence…his mouth wired, his pain – the pain he was going through. I was actually feeling his pain, looking at him. I could feel it …it was real deep. I guess that was God’s way of letting me know how that guy was really feeling after I hit him in his face.
Now look at you. You de-escalate, you keep violence from happening.
Yeah, yeah, and not just here, but when I’m out: traveling, shopping, with family, friends. Like they’ll tell you I’m the same way out in public. My family don’t have to worry. So, I feel like I’m going to be used for something good. I love this. Every day I’m about growth and development now. Once he gave me this opportunity, I told Mr. Blunt I’d never disappoint him.
Yep, you keep the peace, Nate.
Sadly, we lost Nate on May 31, 2022. He was just 38 years old. So many at 2100 are affected by this recent news, and we will miss him terribly.