I want to take a few minutes to share my journey to overcome homelessness in Las Vegas. I will spare the details of the sob story, everyone has one. The short version is my vehicle broke down which was my source of income, and due to poor planning, I could not afford to fix it. Two weeks later, I was homeless in Las Vegas. I only throw in these details, because I was blindsided. Working and living a normal life one day, to staring down homelessness the next. It can happen to many more Americans than would like to admit it.
Being homeless anywhere is probably miserable, but Vegas is especially harsh. The heat is brutal. The homeless services are lacking. And, it becomes very easy to get discouraged and feel hopeless. I spent six grueling weeks trying to inch my way out of my mess. I went to all the various homeless services, waiting hour after hour the talk to someone, only to time and time again get either denied any help or made to jump through so many hoops that I would never be able to complete everything required. I felt beat down and helpless. I was willing and able to work, able to pass drug tests, background checks, and anything else needed. But, transportation was always the issue. Not many jobs near the homeless areas. Job hunting ended up being sitting in the library, sending resumes to any job that popped up on Craigslist and waiting. Very few responses, and most of those were scams. One day, I got an email to interview the following morning. It sounded like a good job and I was not going to miss the opportunity. It was 12 miles away. I walked after begging a worker at the homeless courtyard for a bus pass and getting denied. 24 mile round trip in the Vegas summer. The interview lasted 10 minutes, I never heard back. It is easy to see why people give up and stop trying. I was getting close to that point myself.
I found out about the C.A.R.E. complex and decided since I was starting to feel like homelessness was going to be a long term situation, I would get a locker. I entered the complex for the first time 6 weeks after my misery had started. I was no closer to getting out of the situation than I was when I started. I was depressed and angry. When I sat down the first time to talk to Brittany, I must not have hid my anger well. Brittany would later tell me that my first impression to her was that I was going to be difficult. I met her with the expectation to be shuffled off yet again, told I was unable to get any help, and be some paperwork that went to get more funding. I could not have been more wrong.
After a brief conversation with Brittany, she started removing barriers instantly. For many of the jobs I wanted to apply for, I needed a Nevada drivers license. My birth certificate was stolen a few days earlier. Brittany said they could help with that. I was thankful, but expected a long process. I was wrong again. She ordered my certificate while I sat there, and a week later I had it. It was such a small thing, but seemed like such a huge deal to me. Without knowing it, just the simple act of removing that one barrier, lifted my spirit and made me think maybe I could get out of this. After we talked, she handed my a few bus passes. When you are broke and homeless, bus passes are like gold. I did not have to just sit by a computer hoping for a response to a job. I could go out and search for work. I felt so motivated again. In one hour, Brittany had removed any excuses I could have for not looking for work. Over the next couple of weeks, I had several job interviews that I could actually get to. Some went well, others didn’t, but I still had not found work. I felt different though. I did not feel hopeless anymore, I only need one person to say yes and hire me. I knew that time was getting close.
One day, I went to my locker at C.A.R.E. and noticed a flyer for a job fair promising 1000s of jobs only a half a mile away and a couple days away. I found it funny that all these jobs were being offered so close to hundreds of people on Foremaster that desperately needed them, yet it was barely advertised. The one flyer I happened to walk by was all I heard of it. Only C.A.R.E. made the effort to get the information out. I went to the job fair, and things happened quickly. Within 2 days I was hired, within a week my drug test and background came back, and I was offered a job. But, I ran into a new barrier that I did not think was going to come down. I needed a health card, shoes, and tools for work. I did some research and thought I found a place that would help. I was denied again. I felt like I got punched in the gut. I thought the job was not going to happen. I came to talk to Brittany, angry again, and she calmly and quickly removed those barriers as well. A few days later I had everything I needed to start work and begin rebuilding my life.
I began my job 3 weeks ago. Because of all the issues I ran into searching for work, I was willing to take anything. Brittany could not possibly know how much her support did for me. If she was willing to invest her time and C.A.R.E.s resources in me, I felt an obligation to reach for the best I could. My job turned out to be a union job, with great benefits, a liveable wage, and a full retirement plan and pension. This is not the temporary bandaid I was originally looking for, this is an opportunity to stabilize me forever. I am so humbled by the help that was given to me.
There are so many wonderful things about this complex besides the obvious. Obviously, to get off the street, I needed job. To secure a job, I needed several tangible things. Brittany supplied them all. But, in my mind the real difference was the intangible things provided. The comfort that was offered was the difference to me. I never felt talked down to, or like I was a number. I could have real conversation with Brittany and feel like a human. From start to finish, it took a little over a month to start the process and get to work. Despite feeling hopeless and feeling like I would never be normal again at one point, that probably wasn’t reality. But, I know for sure without Brittany’s help and support, the road would have been much tougher and the results would not be nearly as good. I am forever indebted to C.A.R.E and Brittany and I completely believe in what they are doing with so little. In a tiny little building in the middle of the worst street in Vegas, surrounded by charities and government building that don’t seem to care if you succeed in getting off the streets, sits what I can only describe as my angel, removing one barrier at a time for those who desperately need them removed. I will never forget the opportunity C.A.R.E has given me, and look forward to giving back so that they can quietly go along, doing God’s work, in their unique and loving way.
As I write this, I am 1 day away from moving into an apartment. My journey lasted a little over 100 days, and I have learned much. But this one thing, is the most important. One small good deed can change a person’s life forever. The doer of the deed doesn’t even have to realize the impact they are having. I look forward to spending my life doing those deeds and helping others as well. There is no such thing as a good deed too small. They all add up and can move mountains. Thank you for all you have done for me. From Brittany to the people raising funds and the people donating to such a wonderful cause, your generosity is appreciated. Keep up the wonderful work, the world needs more people like you.