Dana and Dennis enjoyed life as Marin homeowners until, out of the blue, Dennis 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," Dennis says. "Homeward Bound provided a structure and a focus on what we needed to do, one step at a time." They focused on getting healthy and Dennis was able to begin working again. Dennis and Dana moved to Homeward Bound's Family Emergency Center to reunite with their children, Jolie and Alena. With both girls attending the same school, Dennis and Dana began working on goals like improving their money management skills and cleaning up their credit, acquiring knowledge that they said 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. In such an affluent county, to find that people really do care and support a program like this is amazing."
There's a whole new smile on the face of Stevie Ray. 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. And he's put his dental plan to work correcting what he calls "neglect past the point of neglect," with results that have him smiling.
I was afraid to smile before or I wouldn't open my mouth," says Stevie Ray, who came to New Beginnings Center in 2005 as a veteran in need of housing. "Now my teeth are white again and I can smile for real." Stevie Ray 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," he says. He enrolled in a recovery program and found a home at New Beginnings Center, which reserves 16 beds for homeless veterans. "Through the support of the counselors, I realized I didn't have to be so tough," he says. "I realized I can trust in people and, mainly, trust in myself.
I'm grateful for what this place has done for me." 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. "I can fix anything but a broken heart," says the former machinist's mate and submarine maintenance technician. And with the help of Homeward Bound, he says, he's close to shipshape himself. "I've achieved every goal that I set when I left here," he says. "I lost weight, I quit smoking, I've got a great job, I'm fixing my teeth." He passed a big milestone when he graduated from his outpatient treatment program and marked two years of sobriety. "Just watch me go," he says. "There's no stopping me now."
Lisa brings her own unique perspective to SHELTER, Inc. board meetings. Once homeless, Lisa now serves on SHELTER, Inc.'s board and 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 and when she completed it, Lisa applied for and was offered an apartment at the Lyle Morris Family Center. She and her then 12-year-old son moved into a two-bedroom apartment, completely furnished, down to the art supplies for her son. 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's is just a drop in an ocean of stories.
I was a graduate of Bowling Green University. I 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. It was when I couldn't hide it, that everything came down quickly, and I lost 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 a homeless advocate told me about a place called Shepherd's Gate.
My life began again, when I walked up the driveway of Shepherd's Gate Livermore and felt like I was coming home. You know the feeling, when you have had a hard day-- work was difficult, traffic was horrible, but when you pull into the driveway of your home there is a sweet feeling that this place is filled with people that love you and everything is going to be okay? That was how I felt that day.
Since I graduated from Shepherd's Gate I have gone to Bible College, and worked with the Oakland Police Department ministering in their jail. I volunteered at the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic for the past three years 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. Looking at my life 9 years ago, no one would have thought there was any hope for a homeless crack addict. No one would have thought that my future held anything but more pain and addiction. But here I am today-- clean and sober, and privileged to be spending my life giving hope to others in need.