Hope and restoration are for all in need, not just those who struggle with addiction. And Darien, a native Georgian, knows this firsthand. When the pandemic hit in 2020, Darien lost his job, his home, and his family. “After we lost the house and one of our cars, my ex moved with our kids to California with her mom.”
Darien moved in with his dad to save money so he could move to California to be closer to his children. “In December of 2022, I drove straight from Georgia to California,” Darien said. “It was tough being away from my kids. I cried a lot, and it was hard.” Darien had interviewed for a job before moving and was hoping to start work, but when he arrived in Oxnard, he learned the job was given to someone else.
The mother of Darien’s children said he could stay with her and the kids, and he did for a while, but after not getting the job he had hoped for, he came home to his belongings sitting outside. “I was super stressed and panicked.”
Not knowing anyone in the new city, Darien slept in his car for two weeks. When his car broke down, he bought a tent and sleeping bag and slept at the beach.
“It was cold, but I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t know where I was. California was all new to me,” Darien said. “I ate out of trash cans, or someone would give me food. I never knew anyone who had been homeless, and I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.”
Darien had a previous gym membership and used the gym’s showers to “still look decent” for job interviews. “I used the McDonald’s Wi- Fi to apply for jobs. I was persistent and hopeful.” Darien continued to job hunt, but had trouble getting hired because he was not a California resident.
As the weeks passed, Darien’s hope started to fade. “I was scared every night and didn’t know if I was going to get robbed or if I was going to eat again.” Darien’s mom was worried about him and since she had fallen on hard times and was unable to help him, she looked into local shelters. She found the Mission and sent him the address.
Darien started walking from Port Hueneme to Oxnard. “I got to the Mission about an hour before dinner and just started talking to someone,” he said. “I told them I had been homeless for about two months and needed shelter and food. That day was a blessing—mashed potatoes, corn, and green beans. It was the first fresh meal I had had in months! That night it was raining. It was the best sleep of my life.”
Since Darien didn’t struggle with addiction, the Life Recovery Program wasn’t for him, but over the next several weeks, staff committed to helping restore his life. “They gave me the connections I needed. They helped me tow my car to get it fixed and sent me to a mechanic they knew. They helped me with medical and I got on a waitlist for housing, and that got my residency established so I could get a job.”
These were steps Darien could take because he was living in a safe and stable environment. The next step was helping Darien secure a place of his own. “Our intention is to help men and women reach stability in all areas of life,” said Michael Darden, Director of Rescue Mission Alliance Ventura County. “In order to pursue a healthy and well-balanced life, people need a safe place to live. A stable home removes the constant worry of where to stay each night and allows people to focus on their growth.”
Darien’s case worker connected him with an agency that oversees Amazon’s janitorial services. “For my interview, they got me clothes, shoes and someone here cut my hair.” Darien was hired and has since hired Mission graduates to the team.
After staying at the Mission for a month, Darien was able to save money for rent. “For individuals who have encountered difficulties and setbacks, acquiring housing can be extremely difficult,” Darden said. “If someone has dealt with addiction or homelessness, they must overcome many hurdles, like not having an established mailing address, lack of proper documents, issues with credit or employment history, and of course, lack of adequate finances.
“That is why the Rescue Mission Alliance works to help people gain job skills, acquire employment, provide transitional living with a viable address, provide financial classes and coaching, and offer assistance in finding stable housing.”
Darien is settled in now, but returns to say hi and encourage the guys he met in the program. He said he is forever grateful to the Mission for going beyond just a warm meal and safe shelter. “If I didn’t find the Mission, I don’t know where I’d be. They gave me a chance to restart my life. I am giving it all to God. It’s all His.”