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A series of tragedies, financial hardships leaves Vincent on the streets
Looking back at his childhood, Vincent recalls camping and spending summers surfing with his dad and three brothers. “He was a high school teacher, so he had the summers off, so we were just beach bums,” said Vincent, who added that his mom was a registered nurse.
Vincent graduated from high school and then got his AA in administrative justice at Moorpark College before transferring to Humboldt State. He didn’t finish school, as he was interested in cooking and did a course at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School and an apprenticeship at the Bel Air Bay Club in Pacific Palisades. He went on to work for one of the first upscale restaurants in Santa Monica.
After a few years, Vincent felt the need to get “a real job,” he said, and ended up going to work for Los Angeles County Public Works. He got married and worked for the County, operating heavy equipment, for 16 years.
But Vincent was injured on the job, and took early retirement. He and his wife divorced after 14 years, when she revealed that she was having an affair. And two of Vincent’s brothers passed away in 2016, one of cancer, another as a result of a brain aneurysm. “My rent got jacked up and I started running out of money,” he said. “I was living off of my savings. I got a job with a friend at her doggy daycare facility. She let me live at the facility and I looked after things over night, but it was too late. I went to stay with my cousin, but as they say, familiarity breeds contempt, so I left. I stayed on the streets for over a year.”
Vincent had a vehicle and delivered food to make some money, but it wasn’t much. He started taking out payday loans. “I was getting myself into a hole,” he said. “It just got really bad for me.”
Vincent attended the Mission’s shower program in Woodland Hills on Mondays, and Brandon, the Mission’s outreach services coordinator, told him about Renewed Hope. “I was getting to the point where I was thinking about drinking again,” said Vincent. “I had picked it up after my brothers passed away. I was trying to self-medicate my wounds, feeling sorry for myself and my regrets. But I quit in 2017. I told Brandon, ‘I’m going to go back to drinking again. I need to do something to make sure that doesn’t happen.’ I was getting tired of the streets and dealing with all these people all around me, doing drugs, selling drugs. Being homeless (is hard). If you don’t have an address, it’s not an easy life. Finding work is impossible.”
Vincent said he kept praying, asking God to help him through this difficult time. Then he got a call back. Vincent entered Renewed Hope last September. “It was kind of hard at first,” he admitted. “A lot of the guys are much younger—they are in their 30s and I’m 60. And I didn’t have the same type of addiction that some did, a major drug addiction. But by the grace of God, I was able to make it through.
“It’s my first time in any program, but I see how they allow us to make our own decisions, and if there is any conflict with one another, we resolve it. The program has given me a lot of enlightenment on how to deal with people.”
Vincent had a heart procedure a couple months ago and fully recovered at Renewed Hope. He is set to graduate soon, and is looking for work, perhaps back in the animal care business. “The program is really remarkable,” he said. “Being here brings this true understanding of who you are as a human being, and what you can accomplish as a recovering person, with God. You develop a fellowship. We talk about our issues, what’s bugging us. There is a lot of spiritual wellbeing. I don’t feel scared or afraid.”
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