Matt Ellis spends a good portion of his time at Safe Ship in Sioux Falls.
“Minimum of 45-50 hours a week,” Safe Ship Owner Matt Ellis said.
Running the packing and shipping place by himself gets to be a big workload.
Still, he enjoys being a business owner.
“I like the independence of it,” Ellis said.
But getting to this point wasn’t easy.
Ellis started drinking alcohol as a teenager.
“I don’t know if I made it a month or two before I got arrested for the first time,” Ellis said.
Ellis’ struggles with alcohol continued for years.
“It reaches a point where enough is enough. I had put my family through hell. The guilt eventually got the best of me,” Ellis said.
After spending time behind bars, Ellis started his third stay at the St. Francis House, a transitional home in Sioux Falls.
“I don’t know if I ever wanted to get better deep down inside until that point,” Ellis said.
“Some people don’t hit a home run on the first shot. They have to have a second or a third, some people have a seven or eight because we just don’t know when we’re going to catch them,” St. Francis House Executive Director Julie Becker said.
“There’s no cookie cutter approach to helping someone get back on their feet, but there is one thing the St. Francis House gives all of its guests.
“Really it’s called tough love,” Becker said.
The men and women at the St. Francis House have a set of rules they need to follow.
“They need to work for this. This is their life, but we’re here to help them. We will help them get a job, but I’m not going to make them go to work every single day. If they’re not going to go to work, that’s a choice, but they’re also not going to be able to stay here,” Becker said.
It’s the kind of structure Ellis needed in his life.
“You have to earn the privileges that you get there,” Ellis said.
He found out that works in the real world.
“If I go to work every day and I show up on time and I’m doing my job well I’m probably going to get a raise or I’m going to get promoted. Those are all simple life lessons that people with hard heads like me need to have that beaten into their brain,” Ellis said.
The St. Francis House not only helped Ellis prepare himself for a career, but also overcome another obstacle in life.
Ellis battled cancer in his tongue during his stay at the St. Francis House.
Today he’s cancer free.
“It’s nice to know that there’s people out there that care about you, aside from your family. Your family has to love you, I think. When you can get people to love you for who you are and not just because they’re your family that means something to me,” Ellis said.
While Ellis spends a lot of his time at his store these days, he finds some time for a little reflection.
“My favorite part of the day is when I get in my car and drive around and listen to music,” Ellis said.
And he remembers his journey from being a St. Francis House guest to a business owner.
You have a chance to help the St. Francis House by attending its annual dinner and auction on Monday.
The tickets are free. If you’re interested, you can register online.