Ihave been a ballerina, a dance teacher, a caterer, a personal trainer, a certified massage therapist and a sous chef on a cruise ship. I feel like I lived five lifetimes before I became homeless.
I was happy living in New York and working as a caterer. I was a newlywed and just two weeks after my wedding day, my husband was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Two weeks after that, I lost my apartment. I discovered that the landlord had rented out the units illegally, and the Fire Marshall closed down the building. The tenants were not allowed to re-enter the building, not even to gather our personal belongings. In one big swoop I lost everything—my home, my love, and all my possessions. I needed to make a new start and I wanted to live some place warm, so I headed to Arizona.
I lived in Arizona for a brief period of time, and while there, buried my last living relative. From there I moved to Santa Monica and lived in a hostel. Two weeks after I moved in, all my belongings were stolen: my bank card, the little money I had, and all my identification. I spent a few nights sleeping on the street when a homeless man said to me, “You need to be educated. You don’t belong here. I choose to live this life, but I don’t think you want to live like this.” I told him, “You’re right. I don’t want to live like this.” This man took me to DPSS, and helped me to apply for General Relief (welfare). He then took me to Saint Joseph Center and they referred me to a shelter in Culver City. While I was living in Culver City, I heard people talking about Good Shepherd Center. My case manager, persistently called Languille Shelter, and when a space opened, I moved in.
I heard about the culinary arts training program at The Village Kitchen and inquired about it. I always liked cooking, but The Village Kitchen was the first formal training I had. I am so grateful for the education and the experience I received, and for the support I received from my case managers and the rest of the staff. The nuns were awesome! I had never been around nuns before but I quickly realized they’re human; they just dressed differently. I appreciated all the little things I received while living at Good Shepherd Center. Whenever I felt down, someone would come along and ask; ‘Are you ok?’ or they’d say ‘It’s so good to see you.’ There was always someone around to bring you back up.
Today I live in my own apartment with a friend and I work at a café in Hollywood, filling in wherever needed: line cook, chef on food presentation at the front end of the kitchen, and as cook and server for banquets and private parties. Although I love my job, I’m looking for a job that’s more about cooking and combining herbs for wellness. I am studying acupuncture and Chinese medicine at Emperor’s College in Santa Monica. I have my eye on a little tea house and herbal remedy establishment. The staff is friendly and the environment is harmonious. It just may be the perfect place for me! What I really learned from my experience of being homeless is that you don’t have to do something huge. Do something small. Don’t be afraid to be kind. It just might change someone’s life!