Tears spring from 61-year-old Mike Archer’s eyes as he talks about the hardships he has faced. Mike is homeless and doesn’t know how he will survive the winter with just his tent and sleeping bag.
Archer is one of roughly 15,000 people in Utah who are homeless at any given point, according to Utah’s 2015 Comprehensive Report on Homelessness. His possessions are few: clothes, a sleeping bag, a tent and the bike he earned by volunteering at the Provo Bicycle Collective.
The Provo Bicycle Collective refurbishes bikes donated by the community. Volunteers can learn how to fix bikes to earn a bike through volunteer service. Director Austin Taylor estimated Archer has continued to put in 300 volunteer hours since earning his bike. Archer has been able to give away three bikes through his service.
“It was something that made me happy and excited me — to do something to make somebody smile, and I did it,” Archer said. “I don’t regret it.”
What Archer does regret is being separated from his wife and two daughters. He said he missed his younger’s daughter birthday in October, and will miss his other daughter’s birthday this December.
Archer said his anger and other issues are what caused his separation from his family. He said he brought a lot of pain to his family relationship.
“I have nothing to hide,” Archer said.
The oldest of six kids, Archer remembers bearing the brunt of mental and physical abuse.
“I went through hell,” Archer said. “I don’t even know why I’m still alive at times. God wants me alive, so I’m alive. I’m also alive because of this place (the Bicycle Collective).”
Now, Archer attends weekly classes and therapy to help him work through his anger in a healthy way. He said he has never missed a class. Archer said these classes, along with the Provo Bicycle Collective, have given him purpose in life.
Archer said he sleeps in an area nearby the Food and Care Coalition. He said many homeless people stay there. He said a lot of them drink alcohol or use drugs. He said he hates it, but can’t hate the people because he’s one of them.
The old resentment Archer said he held against the homeless in the past, when he had a job and a home, has been replaced with understanding and sympathy. He said a lot of homeless people steal from those around them, which is why he always keeps the entirety of his belongings with him.
The Provo Bicycle Collective is Archer’s sanctuary from the cold and from a negative environment.
“(The collective) is warm. People’s hearts that come in here are warm,” he said. “These guys have been great to me.”
Archer doesn’t know how he will survive the winter. Ultimately, he believes things will turn out for him. He hopes to find a job, and someday to be reunited with his family.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Archer said he wants to be sealed to his wife and daughters. The thought fills him with emotions.
“I just have been dealt a hard life, but I do realize that someday, I will be rewarded for it,” Archer said. “So, I’m fighting for that.”