Twenty-seven previously homeless individuals who have made extraordinary transitions from homelessness to lives filled with passion and promise will be honored this morning at the 17th annual Celebrating Success Breakfast.
The event, which starts at 7:30 a.m. at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, also honors 12 local businesses, organizations, and individuals who have dedicated significant resources to supporting the member agencies of the Westside Shelter & Hunger Coalition (WSHC).
The 2012 WSHC Partnership Award will be presented to St. John’s Health Center.
One of this morning’s honorees is Jamilah McDowell who is being recognized by New Directions. She is a 42-year-old mother of five children aged 8 to 22.
Here is her story in her own words:
My husband and I are together after years of separation. I never imagined as a child I’d live a life of homelessness and drug addiction. I grew up with Mom, grandmother, great grandmother, aunts and uncles but no father. In some small way it was okay because most of my friends didn’t have dads so we never talked about it. As I got older it affected the way I chose a mate and how I viewed men in my life.
I started using drugs at 15, hanging out with the wrong people and always looked for their approval.
I used drugs searching for some kind of peace, wanting to fill the gaping hole, not realizing the peace I sought was within me. Living on the streets homeless, doing what I had to do to survive and living without my kids haunted me daily.
Finally I was tired and had to change my thinking and allow God to take control in every area of my life. My awesome mother has always been in my corner no matter what –through years of homelessness she took care of my children until I could become the mother I am today, the mother she was to me. My life is exactly how it is supposed to be and I know God has so much more in store for me.
Going back to school is one of my lifelong goals and I’m doing it! I have my five children, my husband who has been there for over 20 years, a beautiful home and a support system that is essential for maintaining this gifted life.
Another honoree is David Mays who is being honored by the Westside Family Health Center.
This is his story in his own words:
I was never homeless because I dropped the ball. I was homeless because I refused to pick it up.
I went through a period as a teenager of doubt and confusion that comes from being unsure about what to do with one’s life. I loved music and dreamed of being successful at it someday. After moving from Virginia to California in 1974, I made the decision to pursue a musical career without working at a regular job to support this endeavor. This was the official beginning of 29 years of hardship.
Throughout those years there were times when I worked and had a place to live but sooner-or-later I always ended up on the streets. Drugs became an issue in the 1980s making it even harder to “get back on my feet” whenever a job or home became available. There were times when I slept on tennis courts, the park and sometimes on cement with no blankets.
In 2003, I was blessed to be able to stop the drugs and the drinking and from then on, I never touched another drug, never took another drink.
For ten years, I’ve had a job and a home. I have wonderful friends and self respect and the respect of others. I pursued my musical interest on the side and give thanks to God for blessing me with this life and protecting me when I was walking in darkness. It is an honor to be associated with Westside Family Health Center for 10 years. They were my rock in much leaner days and continue to be so. Health care will always be an issue, even in reasonably prosperous times. I joined the Board in 2007 and feel privileged to be able to give back.