Resilience and Grit: A Mother's Commitment to Her Children

Watch this episode!

On this episode of 'Homeless in San Diego: Real People, Real Stories,' host Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services, welcomes Sarah Gomez. Sarah is a Marine Corps veteran, mother of two, and graduate student at Cal State San Marcos. Today she is also an Instructional Technician and Academic Coach at the university.

Greg and Sarah discuss her journey from a successful homeowner to losing everything and becoming homeless with her two children and nowhere to go after her husband was sentenced to jail. Listen to learn how Sarah’s resilience and grit, and her commitment to her children led her to where she is today.

Calls to Action:

  • “If it wasn’t for Interfaith, then I would be one of those families on the street corner,” said Sarah, “Give to programs like Interfaith… Its why we’re here today.” Click here to donate.

  • Advocate to your elected officials to prioritize government grants to end and prevent homelessness for moms like Sarah - more resources for homelessness prevention are especially needed.

  • Interfaith has a special fund, “Offering Hope in Housing,” which is used to help those families facing imminent eviction. Click here, and select “Offering Hope in Housing” from the dropdown menu to donate to this fund and help mom’s like Sarah.

I'm Making a Mark in the World

Kim Mitchell, CEO of Veterans Village of San Diego; Rod Gabriel, army veteran and entrepreneur; Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services

Kim Mitchell, CEO of Veterans Village of San Diego; Rod Gabriel, army veteran and entrepreneur; Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services

On this episode of ‘Homeless in San Diego: Real People, Real Stories,’ host Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services, is joined by CEO of Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD), Kim Mitchell, and army veteran Rod Gabriel.

“Every veteran has raised their right hand, has committed an oath to serve and do something beyond themselves; yet, veterans are disproportionately represented among people experiencing homelessness,” says Greg. Army veteran, Rod, shares his inspirational story about the homelessness he experienced after serving in the military. His journey includes imprisonment, addiction, and homelessness, until he found VVSD, which helped him on his road to recovery and finding his path as a successful entrepreneur.

Calls to Action:

  • Visit the VVSD website to learn how you can get involved and help build public awareness

  • Be proactive in helping homeless veterans. Encourage them to seek services.

  • Have compassionate in outreach toward homeless veterans and do not make hasty assumptions.

  • Check out the Annual Stand Down: Stand Down 2019 is June 28th – June 30th at San Diego High School

  • Support organizations like VVSD and Interfaith financially and by volunteering.

  • Support veteran-owned and operated businesses such as Rod’s gym, Fit 2 Ripped

A Spiritual Perspective on Homelessness Part II

Four copies still available for giveaway! Check out our “Calls to Action” below for details on how to win.

Four copies still available for giveaway! Check out our “Calls to Action” below for details on how to win.

On this episode of 'Homeless in San Diego: Real People, Real Stories,' host Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services, welcomes Michael Williams, a published author and formerly homeless Marine Corps veteran, back to the show.

Michael Williams was a recipient of housing services at the Veterans Shelter at Interfaith. He volunteered during the morning meal service which helped integrate him back into society and gave him a sense of purpose by giving back. These very experiences led him to publishing: “Inspirational Stories of the Homeless: Dignity, Nobility, and Decency.”

“As I was doing my volunteer work, I became emotionally and spiritually moved by the acts of the dignity and nobility and kindness that I was seeing within the homeless population that would move and inspire me every morning. The book was a catharsis of all of this intensity of spirituality that I saw in the homeless community, and it’s something I felt is really not talked about,” said Michael.

The book is an accumulation of 10 stories that impressed him the most. One story Michael shared began at the shelter after breakfast was prepared by volunteers. He said they serve around 150 meals daily and people experiencing homelessness can take a sack lunch with them as they leave the shelter.

The program aims to guarantee two meals a day, but on some days, they run out of lunches. He felt touched by a woman who selflessly gave up her lunch for a 10 year old girl to eat later that day because they had ran out before the child was able to get one.

Michael also expressed the spirituality he experienced from homelessness - it deepened his awareness toward the human condition. Beyond mental illness and drug addiction, there are many other reasons people become homeless.

They discussed Michael’s life before he was forced to live on the streets. He was a successful man who not only was a consultant in the performing arts industry, but also an economics major, insurance salesman, and he served his country as a Marine Corp Infantry Officer.

What lead him to living on the streets was his denial of the chronic and severe pain he suffered. Michael was unable to receive treatment for it, and shared that applying for disability pay required a complicated journey that overwhelms many. Michael had to sell his home, goods, and eventually his car to get by until he was able to receive help at Interfaith.

He expressed his gratitude toward the donors who made it possible for him to regain his self-sufficiency and who gave back to the community. He is now able to live independently people who care.

Michael is especially grateful for peoples' help because of the homeless children that are out there that no one talks about. He made a point that there is no certain profile that characterizes how someone ends up homeless compared to another person. There are college students as well as children living on the streets. They are trying to get by, going to school every day, and seemingly leading normal lives. Sometimes, we can never tell who is suffering immensely.

Another spiritual aspect of the show was brought up: the flaw in all of us - judging others too quickly. “We don't know what someone is going through or what leads them to be cranky that day or why they’ve turn to drugs or alcohol to soothe their pain. We don’t know. And so I really encourage our listeners to read some of the stories we share here,” said CEO Greg Anglea.

Michael has been rehabilitated for several years and shared that coming out of homelessness is not an immediate action. He said that acquiring a home, wardrobe, and furniture will take time. He also talked about the reintegration processes involved in rehabilitation such as finding a church, hair stylist, and grocery store. He said it’s all a part of starting over, but he is content knowing he is a thriving member of his community again.

The first step of becoming rehabilitated was being able to rent an apartment.

“It was one of the happiest days of my life. I was elated when I got approved for that apartment, and it made a difference. I could not wait to move in. I remember going in. He handed me my keys and I looked around my apartment. It was my place and after having been homeless for so long, the feelings are really interesting,” said Michael.

He arrived to his apartment with nothing but the clothes on his back and a duffel bag full of his stuff. He slept on the floor a couple of days, but felt grateful to be indoors. During his adjustment period, he realized there are so many things taken for granted when it comes to living in a home - simple things like our wardrobe, dishes, and a couch in the living room.

It took Michael two years to go from an empty apartment to making a house a home. He said rebuilding is a process that requires taking one thing at a time, especially where mental and emotional recovery is concerned.

“So the journey of ending homelessness is not ended, it is still a continuous journey that takes years in order for people to get to a point where they can reenter what I would call typical middle class America which I was a part of prior to my illness,” said Michael.

CEO Greg Anglea and Michael Williams discussed how mental health issues are often not the reason someone ends up living on the street, contrary to popular belief. Michael's goal is to break apart shallow perceptions and inspire empathy and compassion toward those suffering from hardship.

“Very often, many people think that people experiencing homelessness are suffering from mental illness and it is not a contributing factor to their homelessness. They made good, solid, mature decisions, however, they were overwhelmed and they did not have resources to meet the challenge,” said Michael.

Michael shared that enduring homelessness caused a tremendous amount of stress, anxiety, and depression which is a condition he suffered from after he found himself in the reality of homelessness. Rehabilitation from those experiences may require a period of recovery time based on the traumatic events he encountered from losing his job, home, car, and livelihood.

“If there is a good side to it, from a spiritual basis, it’s made me a kinder, more empathetic, more understanding human being, and less judgmental. Being less judgmental is a true gift of humanity,” said Williams.

He is currently working on his 5th and 6th book to contribute to sharing how people go on journeys they never expected to have. His philosophy is: the more empathy we can have for others, the more human we can be.

When people contribute volunteer effort or make donations toward these programs, we are saying yes to children eating, veterans being rehabilitated, and deepening out humanity. Whether it’s yes to a bagged lunch or yes to resources that provide the ability to reach self-sufficiency, Interfaith aims to lend a hand up for all of those in need.

Calls to Action:

  • Four copies of Mr. William’s book left to give away! For a chance to win, submit your feedback about the show, or suggest a topic for an upcoming episode at: www.homelessinsandiego.org/get-in-touch

  • You can buy the book on Amazon.com - be sure to use AmazonSmile and select a nonprofit for Amazon to donate to (no cost to you!)

  • Contribute to whichever organization you are most drawn to by volunteering or donating to help people who need help.

  • Be empathetic and understanding toward people who are experiencing homelessness.

  • Look people in the eye to create a moment of connection that respects someone experiencing homelessness as another human being.

A Spiritual Perspective on Homelessness Part I

Michael Williams, published author and formerly homeless Marine Corp veteran, in the podcast studio!

Michael Williams, published author and formerly homeless Marine Corp veteran, in the podcast studio!

On this episode of 'Homeless in San Diego: Real People, Real Stories,' host Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services, welcomes Michael Williams, a published author and formerly homeless Marine Corps veteran.

The two discuss what life was like for Michael before he ended up on the streets - a successful man, who not only was a consultant in the performing arts industry for 10 years, but also has a degree in economics and served his country as a Marine Corp Infantry Officer. But then he got sick. He had to sell his home, goods, and eventually his car just to get by, until he was able to receive help at Interfaith. Michael makes a point to express his gratitude for the donors who support Interfaith, who ultimately made it possible for him to regain his self-sufficiency.

Calls to Action:

  • Download/listen to previous podcast episodes you may have missed - then, provide feedback about the show, ask questions, or suggest an issue to address on a future episode

  • For the first 10 people who reach out, Interfaith will do a giveaway of Mr. Williams book!

  • You can also buy the book on Amazon -be sure to use AmazonSmile and select a nonprofit for Amazon to donate to (no cost to you!)

  • Contribute to whichever organization you are most drawn to by volunteering or donating to help people who need help

A Life Turned Around

Brie.jpg

On this episode of ‘Homeless in San Diego: Real People, Real Stories,’ host Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services invited Housing Case Manager Tierra Bowen alongside her client to discuss her journey from the streets to stability.

Brie recently attended the National Alliance of Ending Homelessness Conference and won a highly competitive scholarship due to her amazing rehabilitation story. She has come a long way since being a resident at Interfaith.

Eviction, debt, and a criminal record with multiple violations are just a few of the barriers Brie had to overcome in order to be where she is now. After 6 months of looking for housing without any luck, Brie was living in a safe house with her 5 year old daughter. She was unable to find housing due to being rejected by landlords because of her background.

Interfaith owns 80 apartments on 1 block of Escondido. They are used to help stabilize people and support reunified families who find themselves in a similar situation as Brie. Through this, Interfaith was able to provide Brie with 18 months of stability.

The beginning of Brie’s story began when she was 14 years old, the age she became aware that she suffered from depression. At 16 years old, Brie made her first suicide attempt and has since been hospitalized over 20 times throughout her life. She also found herself in between long term and short term facilities to receive care.

Brie is now 41 and has not been hospitalized for over 4 years. She shared that she had endured a lot of trauma from the domestic violence that lead to her divorce. This is when she had begun using methamphetamine to cope.

Brie blames her drug abuse as a secondary illness and her mental health was the first problem. She tried many different types of medications and avenues of therapy, but she felt that drugs supplied her with a unique ability to cope in the moment. Once her addiction got out of control, Brie lost everything; her home, children, and from there, she ended up on the street.

Anglea wanted to address the common misconceptions that surround addiction in order to promote a deeper awareness toward people experiencing homelessness. He asked, “Why can’t you just stop?” regarding her drug abuse problem.

“There are many reasons. Say you have depression that is debilitating and you wake up on the sidewalk because now you are homeless, and your child has been taken from you, you have nowhere to go, no money in your pocket, and your belly is hungry, and a guy next to you pulls out a pipe and says hey, you want some of this? That [drug] is your friend, the only friend you have. Above and beyond that, it’s a coping mechanism. So it’s going to take the pain I feel emotionally and physically away. I’m going to be able to go through the motions of that day until the sun goes down and it’s dark and I can go to sleep.”

Brie was able to get clean, address some of the mental health issues she had struggled with, and eventually was approved by the courts to reunite with her daughter. But she needed a great deal of support in order to accomplish all that she has.

She utilized what’s known as “Harm reduction therapy” for an illness in a mental health situation where addiction it’s a co-occurring disorder. They work on getting your mental health stabilized and treat you while intoxicated. She couldn’t get clean or off of drugs because she wasn’t finding the right help.

Harm reduction does not require sobriety to treat mental health issues. UCSD allowed her to walk into the program without strict expectations, and was accepted with open arms. She felt loved, encouraged, and lifted up until her spirit was strong enough to feel ready to quit.

“I have a lot of trauma and I haven’t had a permanent home in 10 years. I lost my family, my children, and all of my friends. So the social workers that I had, the case workers that I had, the doctors that I had, the professionals that I had, were the reason that I was able to do it. They encouraged me, they supported me, they pushed me, and they loved me. They came in my darkest moments and rebuilt me.”

She expressed gratitude for people like Tierra Bowen who held her accountable throughout her journey to stabilization and rehabilitation. They asked questions regarding her visitation with doctors, gave her regular goals, and helped pull her through by not giving up on her.

Throughout the show, they discussed the complex processes involved from the start to finish process of rehabilitation. Bowen shared that it’s not just about getting a housing voucher, but the support system and other community partners to help create stability for families. This is evident in Brie’s story.

Brie has renewed her bond with her mother and son, her record is expunged, and she is two classes away from getting her A.A. degree in sociology. She is nearly 4 years sober and therapy professionals deemed that her mental health symptoms are in remission. Currently, Brie is living in permanent housing. She also volunteers and works with parents experiencing homelessness that are trying to reunite with their children.

Brie’s resilience, strength, and appreciation for all of the people involved throughout her self-improvement journey makes her truly inspirational. Anglea said he looks forward to working with Brie in the future as a colleague; Brie has aspirations to be a social worker and give back to the community once she earns her Master’s degree.

Calls to Action:

  • If a list Pay equitable wages for the work that’s being done.

  • Continue to donate. Even the smallest donation can have a large impact.

  • Check out the Adopt a Family Program during the holidays. Brie discussed how her family”adopter” gave her a basket of cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, and other home necessities. The family also bought her daughter clothes and a bicycle. She said it felt like heaven to receive so many gifts.

  • Make donations to the food pantry year round.

  • If you or someone you know is experiencing substance abuse, check out the Harm Reduction Therapy at UCSD. While some organizations only help people when they stop using drugs, they understand that it is not that easy. They provide a safe place to receive therapy and will listen to people even while they are intoxicated. The program allows you to get strong enough to stop the addiction through their treatment plans.

All It Takes Is One Person to Care

Gary Warth, San Diego Union Tribune

Gary Warth, San Diego Union Tribune

On this episode of ‘Homeless in San Diego: Real People, Real Stories,’ host Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services is joined by Gary Warth of the San Diego Union Tribune. Warth shares his unique perspective about the stories and issues surrounding homelessness. The purpose of their discussion was to share insight into the realities some people face while experiencing homelessness as well as help listeners be more educated and informed about what’s taking place in our communities.

One of Warth’s goals as a journalist investigating a story is to understand what homeless people need rather than allowing committee members to make decisions for them. For example, he spoke with a woman in her mid-60s. She has a five page resume and wants to work, but fears not being able to find a job because she cannot access a shower and does not have clean clothes. Another man said he waits in line at 4am to use a public shower with a hundred other people and only half in line may get to use it.

Warth also gave insight into the daily lives of several homeless veterans and their success stories. He shared that homeless people are capable of changing their lives in major, incredible ways and shared inspirational stories about their journeys from the streets to stability and how they are now in a place to help others.

Another topic Warth and Anglea discussed was the impact that one person can have on another person’s life, especially by their outreach efforts. All it takes is one person to care about someone to motivate great changes.

This week’s podcast is a great way to understand the current issues surrounding homelessness within our San Diego community, gain more insights into their daily lives, inspire kindness, and to help listeners become more educated and informed.

Calls to Action:

  • If a listener has a story that’s worth sharing, reach out to Gary to learn more about available resources. Contact Gary at: gary.warth@sduniontribune.com | Phone: (760) 529-4939.

  • Read what Gary is writing to learn more about the stories he shares that are informative and eye-opening.

  • Get involved in agencies, make donations, and Gary recommends that people stay educated about the work going on in their community.

  • Reach out to Interfaith to see how you can help through donations to help end and prevent homelessness this year.

You Are Not A Lost Cause

Krysta Esquivel and David Baker

Krysta Esquivel and David Baker

On this episode of ‘Homeless in San Diego: Real People, Real Stories,’ host Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services, is joined by Executive Director Krysta Esquivel and David Baker of YMCA Youth & Family Services (YFS). David shares his personal journey, coming from “a background of dysfunction,” and experiencing homelessness at a young age. “I would say I never really had a home,” said David, until he found YMCA YFS. Krysta discusses the goals of the organization around social responsibility and helping vulnerable youth and families. David is a living example of how the cycle can be broken; not only is he no longer homeless, but he is now an employee at YMCA YFS, helping those who are in the shoes he once was; and he wants all youth experiencing homelessness to know: you are not a lost cause.

Calls to Action:

Recuperative Care: A Way Out of Homelessness

Tracy and Max at Interfaith’s  Hawthorne Veteran and Family Resource Center

Tracy and Max at Interfaith’s Hawthorne Veteran and Family Resource Center

On this episode of ‘Homeless in San Diego: Real People, Real Stories,’ host Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services, is joined by Tracy, a Navy Veteran and graduate of Interfaith’s Recuperative Care Program located at our Hawthorne Veteran and Family Resource Center. Tracy also introduces Max, his loyal companion and the first service dog to live at the Recuperative Care center (and to come on the podcast!), as well as his son, Caleb, who is inspired by and proud of his dad’s journey.

Tracy with his son, Caleb at his graduation.

Tracy with his son, Caleb at his graduation.

When Tracy first came to Interfaith, he was living in his car and struggling to treat his PTSD and schizophrenia. When he was offered a way out of homelessness through Recuperative Care, Tracy was skeptical of accepting the help. Tracy shares how grateful he is that he did and how Interfaith truly turned his life around.

Calls to Action:

Life is Meant For More

Reverend Meg Decker, Interfaith Board Chair

Reverend Meg Decker, Interfaith Board Chair

On this episode of ‘Homeless in San Diego: Real People, Real Stories,’ host Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services, is joined by Reverend Meg Decker, Board Chair at Interfaith and leader of Trinity Episcopal Church in Escondido. As the ‘boss lady’ Rev. Meg discusses her experiences volunteering at Interfaith’s Haven House Shelter, sharing conversations with residents over their pancakes with sporks, and also speaks to her role as Board Chair, making tough decisions that directly impact those residents. Greg and Meg discuss how our neighbors experiencing homelessness truly have to fight back and the interesting conversation that results shows us that life is meant for more.

Calls to Action:

  • If you’re clergy, Interfaith needs more volunteer chaplains! Learn more at https://www.interfaithservices.org/volunteer/

  • Serve a meal at Interfaith’s Haven House Shelter. All of our dinners are made and served by volunteer groups and families! The current openings are listed here

  • Donate to Offering Hope in Housing. You can be the difference in ending someones homelessness. Click here to donate and select “Hope in Housing”

MythBuster Edition: Affordable Housing

On this special "mythbuster edition" episode of ‘Homeless in San Diego: Real People, Real Stories,’ host Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services, welcomes back Rebecca Louie from Wakeland, an affordable housing developer, and Bruce, a formerly homeless resident of Wakeland housing. Greg, Rebecca, and Bruce discuss the common myths around affordable housing, and one very important truth: “there is only one thing that solves homelessness; and that is housing.”

Calls to Action:

  • If affordable housing comes to your community - show up or write a letter and say, “I do want this here!”

  • Learn more, get out, make your voice heard. Be a positive voice - YOU make a difference. As Rebecca states, “…anytime we would get one positive phone call - when we were getting so many negative ones - it makes an extraordinary difference.”

  • If you hear of a project in your jurisdiction, support it. And Greg adds, “You also don’t have to wait for a project to come on the docket. You can go to the council and put in a notice to speak (open comment at the beginning) and say that you support the creation of more of affordable housing. That it’s the just, right thing to do.”