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After two years on the street, Jesus enters program, finds hope
When Jesus’ father came to the United States from Mexico, he had to work two jobs. He secured a visa for his family to join him. Jesus’ mom didn’t read or write English, but learned while raising Jesus, just 2 at the time they arrived in the U.S., and his three siblings. The family settled on the (Ventura) Avenue in Ventura, and had a good life. Jesus’ dad went on to own his own company, and his mother teaches toddlers and children with special needs.
After graduating from high school, Jesus got a job in produce management at Vons. He did well at work, made good money, and still attended church with his family each week. “I kept a good lifestyle until I was 25,” he said. “I met some bad people through work and was introduced to drugs, but I was able to push it away at first. Eventually I was doing it, but I was a functional addict.”
When the Vons Jesus worked at was bought by another chain, and then went bankrupt, Jesus found himself out of work. “I lost my job, and I was depressed,” he said. “I had access to drugs, and I started self-medicating. I was numbing myself.
“My parents noticed my behaviors, and finally, my mom found some of my drugs in my closet. The two of us had trouble communicating, and that made it even worse. My Dad told me to get straight or leave the house. He wasn’t going to tolerate drugs in his home.”
His father gave Jesus the option of going to a program, and he agreed. “I went to the program that my parents chose,” he said. “I graduated and came back. There still wasn’t a lot of good communication, and there was definitely still no trust.
“My mom and I have been able to talk more, and I’ve learned more about the relationship she had with her parents and how they lived. They grew up in poverty. They had to be strict to survive. She told me about when they got their first stove and what a big deal that was. … I was very lucky to have the luxuries I had growing up.”
Jesus relapsed after reconnecting with the people he used with years earlier. “It was a false sense of comfort,” he said. “My mom knew right away. She noticed when I wasn’t eating and sleeping, and knew what that meant.”
Jesus left the house and was homeless for two years. “I was just finding a way to escape, to not face what I was doing,” he said. “I wasn’t able to accept what was happening, and that kept pushing me to use.”
After a year of living in his car, police came to tow Jesus’ vehicle. “The officer gave me the number of the Mission,” he said. “I came for lunches and dinners, and did some overnight stays. I started getting to know the homeless around here since I was now on the streets.”
Jesus would talk with some of the men in the program when he would come to the Mission as a line guest and they would encourage him. Eventually, Jesus decided to go out on a limb and enter the Life Recovery Program. “I was greeted so nicely, and the staff was happy to see me join,” he said. “They make you feel like you belong there, like it’s a family. It had been a long time since I had felt safe and comfortable.”
Recently, Jesus’ older sister passed away. “I was here, quarantined,” Jesus said. “She was only 35. She had a double brain aneurysm and had a heart attack. They said she didn’t feel anything. Knowing that, it helps. At least I know she didn’t suffer.
“She was there for me a lot in my addiction. She helped others. That’s what this place is teaching me. Your deeds show your faithfulness. I’m glad I was here when it happened. I know she’s up there (in heaven) without a doubt.”
Jesus volunteers at check-in at the Mission, and helps line guests during meals. He also works with program clients. “I see some of the small struggles sometimes, when they are walking around or doing chores. It is pleasing to me to encourage them. All you have to do is ask here. Someone will be there.”
After graduating in March, Jesus entered the Transitional Living Program. He’s also interning at the Mission. “I’m devoting myself to the program,” he said “I’m truly surrendering to this program and to God. He’s restored everything like it never happened. I’m able to go to my mom and love her like I loved her before, and same with my brothers. (In the program) was the first time I heard my Dad tell me he loved me.”
Jesus would also like to return to college, although he is still considering a major. At 32, “it’s never too late to achieve a goal,” he said.
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