Among the 22 individual honorees at the 13th Annual Success Breakfast was Onita Mayden. She was born and raised in Chicago, the middle child of a loving family. Before she became homeless, she earned a B.A. in psychology and an M.S. in education, and was a Life Skills Counselor for seven years, making a career of helping those in need.
“I used to believe people were homeless because of poor choices,” says Onita. “I was wrong. In 2005, I became homeless.”
In a span of two years, her life changed. Her company downsized and she was laid off; a serious relationship ended, and several people close to her passed away.
“In my eyes, I was a failure, a loser, and embarrassed. My self-esteem was low. This was a huge blow to my ego because I was an employee in the mental health field for so long.”
In March 2007, Onita entered OPCC Daybreak Shelter. “I met so many peers needing help,” she says, “and I realized I still had the education and experience to help others. I realized my potential.”
In her remarks from the podium at the Success Breakfast, Oneita said, “I thank God for putting people in my path who cared and were willing to help.”
Today Onita has an apartment in the San Fernando Valley. She is working in mental health services again as a part-time peer advocate at Exodus Recovery Urgent Care in Culver City, and she is the vice president of Daybreak Designs, a firm that markets artistic products created by the residents of OPCC Daybreak Shelter, which she entered in March 2007.
“I want people to know that homeless people are also human,” she says. “Our humanity is not diminished. God forbid anyone should lose his or her income or mental faculties; homelessness can happen to anyone.”
Among those receiving Community Support Awards was the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation, which was honored by Chrysalis for its practice of hiring people in Chrysalis programs who needed a chance to start working to change their lives.
Jim Harris, Community Events Liaison and Pier Historian, explained that the Pier’s need for part-time help to set up the stage, clean up, and break down after their music and movie night events fit well with the needs of the Chrysalis people for solid work that boosted self-confidence and helped them gain current work experience and new skills.