Beating the odds: a Syracuse man's story of recovery and hope

Everyone is dealt a different hand in life. Damon Gilstrap's was especially unlucky.

At nine Gilstrap found his mother dead from a drug overdose. Not long after, Gilstrap dropped out of school. He spent his youth in D.C. panhandling and in and out of juvenile detention. By his 18th birthday, Gilstrap was addicted to drugs.

While panhandling one day, a stranger gave Gilstrap a bus ticket to Syracuse. He had no idea that the trip to a completely unfamiliar city would change his life forever.

When Gilstrap arrived in Syracuse he was as down on his luck as they come. Homeless and addicted to drugs, Gilstrap sought out the first shelter he could find and found himself at the Rescue Mission.

After three years of counseling, Gilstrap was able to beat his addiction and strike out on his own. His journey wasn't easy, nor always straight and narrow, but it was a transformation he was determined to make.

In 2007 Gilstrap suffered a massive stroke and brain scans subsequently revealed three tumors. The near-death experience inspired Gilstrap to share his story of triumph over a troubled past.

Gilstrap doesn't have a high school education and his speech is severely impaired from his stroke, but he does have an incredible story and was determined to tell it. It took seven years and countless revisions, but Gilstrap is now a published author. With his autobiography, From Tragedy to Homeless to Triumph, Gilstrap hopes to change lives the way the Rescue Mission helped him change his: through inspiration and love.

"No matter what type of hand you have been dealt in life, you have to play your hand," said Gilstrap at his book signing at Barnes and Noble in Dewitt tonight. "I had a bad hand in life and I had to make it a better hand."

To learn more about Gilstrap's work with the Rescue Mission or to purchase his book, visit: