Dana and Dennis enjoyed life as Marin homeowners until Dennis unexpectedly lost his job. Unable to keep up with mortgage payments, their finances spiraled out of control and they found themselves homeless. Their parents took in their two daughters while Dennis and Dana lived in a camper van for four months, eventually finding their way to Mill Street Center in San Rafael, the entry point into Homeward Bound's Adult Services Program.
"When you've hit rock bottom, you don't know where to start addressing your problems," said Dennis. "Homeward Bound provided a structure and a focus on what we needed to do, one step at a time." Reunited with their children, Jolie and Alena, and with both girls in school, Dennis was able to begin working again. Dennis and Dana began working on goals, improving their money management skills and cleaning up their credit, acquiring knowledge they say they'll use for the rest of their lives.
The family has moved from Homeward Bound to independent housing and was chosen as a "Family of the Year" by Family Works in San Rafael in 2007. "All of this success is because of your programs,” said Dennis. “In such an affluent county, it was amazing to find that people really do care and support a program like this."
Stevie Ray came to New Beginnings Center in 2005 as a veteran in need of housing. He served 10 years in the U.S.. Navy’s submarine force, but found his life running aground when he left the military. “I had to make a change,” said Stevie Ray. “Through the support of the counselors, I realized I didn’t have to be so tough and could trust in people and mainly, trust in myself. I am very grateful.”
Stevie Ray has moved to Sonoma County, where he rents the top half of a farmhouse, and occasionally returns to New Beginnings Center on weekends as a volunteer. He loves his job as maintenance supervisor at The Mall at Northgate where he makes sure visitors enjoy a sparkling environment with shining floors and thriving plants. In 12 months, he's risen from rookie to supervisor of a 14-member staff. "I've achieved every goal that I set when I left the center,” said Stevie. “I lost weight, quit smoking, got a great job and I'm fixing my teeth." He's put his dental plan to work correcting what he calls "neglect past the point of neglect," with results that now have him smiling. He passed a big milestone when he graduated from his outpatient treatment program and marked two years of sobriety.
Lisa brings her own unique perspective as a board member for SHELTER, Inc. Once homeless, Lisa often shares her own story to spread the word about the needs of homeless families and how the community partners with SHELTER, Inc. to meet those needs.
Lisa left home at age 15, developed a drug habit and became pregnant at 23. She struggled to maintain sobriety and be a good mom to her young son, but sleeping in her truck and on friends' couches took its toll. Eventually she went into a drug treatment program. Once completed, Lisa applied for and was offered an apartment at the Lyle Morris Family Center. This was Lisa's first real home since moving out at 15 and she was determined to make it last. It wasn't long before Lisa obtained her GED, graduated from a 16-week intensive job training class in office work and was hired as an office manager.
Given a stable home at the Lyle Morris Family Center, the tools to develop self-sufficiency and the support of a caring case manager, Lisa was able to graduate and move into her own apartment in only ten months. Today, just five years later, Lisa's son has graduated from high school, she earned an accounting certificate and she has been working as a bookkeeper for the same employer for four years. Lisa graciously shares her inspiring story with others, but is quick to point out that her story is just a drop in an ocean of stories.
“I was a graduate of Bowling Green University, had dated a professional athlete for over six years and flown all over the country. I owned my own home and was an executive secretary to the president of an aerospace company. I had a secret though; I was addicted to crack cocaine and had been for almost 20 years.
“I ended up losing my home and found myself living on the streets of Berkeley for three years begging for food and money. It was on those streets that I learned about Shepherd's Gate in Livermore from a homeless advocate. Since graduating from Shepherd's Gate. I have gone to Bible College and worked with the Oakland Police Department ministering in their jail, and volunteered at the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic helping low-income women with cancer find resources. I went to school to become a certified Community Health Worker and currently work in collaboration with the City of Berkeley and the school district providing information on health insurance and health education to children and parents.
“I was given a second chance. Shepherd's Gate was a refuge that gave me an opportunity to heal and redirect my life, and I am privileged to be spending my life giving hope to others in need.”