Uriel’s childhood in San Bernardino was marked by challenges and the absence of a nurturing family environment. Growing up with an emotionally distant father, Uriel never experienced the love he needed.
“Mostly he was not good to be around,” said Uriel of his father, “although he did provide a roof. I would say I had a father, but not really that bond (one has with a) father. I was always trying to gain his love, endlessly wanting his approval.”
Uriel got caught up in an auto theft that left him serving a year in juvenile hall. “I didn’t want to leave,” he said. “I loved it. I was able to go to school and there were other kids around. I learned to love learning there. It was one of those high points in my life. It really changed things for me because I actually had structure and people who cared.”
At 14, he moved out and started working. After eight years working, the economic downturn of 2008 hit and he lost his job. Uriel had married and had three kids. “We went through a horrible divorce. My wife had suffered from postpartum. We had a terrible custody battle.
“Slowly, I kind of gave up,” he said, tearing up. “So the next part of my life was without them. And me just trying to ignore that fact. It’s hard because I don’t ever talk about this because it brings up these emotions. But I’m glad I’m finally somewhere where I am able to talk about it.”
Uriel came to Renewed Hope after he wound up homeless. He slept at the beach for a while, and then ended up in East LA. He was sleeping at a busway when a shootout broke out near him. That’s when he got help.
Uriel arrived in October. “When I saw this place, I was like, ‘This is just too good to be true.’” Uriel started working the program and reading. “It’s like 20 mirrors are looking at you and you are seeing different angles of your life. (The studies) helped me put together a lot of events that happened in my childhood.”
Uriel also received word recently that he could potentially get his kids back. “That’s my number one priority right now. I’m just praying, and working on getting my kids.”
Uriel plans to attain stable housing and have his kids and his mom move in. He’s looking for guidance on his future career, but is interested in working with kids and families. “I have these different thoughts about where I want to be, but I pray to God to take me there,” he said. “I just let Him guide me. And I follow my heart, knowing it will be in His will.”
His advice for others is simple: have patience and trust God. “Sometimes we want to do things our way and it just all collapses. This is a good place to heal from the mental wounds you have, spiritually and physically. And then after that, it’s time to grow.
“This place is not only changing lives, but transforming souls.”