“I needed a lot of help and encouragement from the Food Bank and other Westside agencies to get back on my feet, but I think it’s paid off now that I’m helping others get off the street and beginning to realize my dream of becoming a Social Worker.”
Mark spent over a decade living on the streets of Santa Monica. All but abandoned by his parents as a child, he turned to drugs and alcohol as a teenager, and had faced several scrapes with the law by the time he became an adult. Mark then sunk into what would become a twenty-year cycle of alcoholism, until he finally got help from several of Westside Food Bank’s member agencies.
Before getting help, Mark worked on and off, but he could not hold onto a job. Eventually, he would quit or be fired because of his drinking. After repeated hospitalizations, he was referred to Clare Foundation where he stayed just long enough to get sober. During his frequent relapses, he accepted short-term assistance from local programs including St. Joseph Center and OPCC Access Center (now the People Concern). Case managers from each of these programs would help by providing him with food that their agencies had received from Westside Food Bank. The food sustained Mark, and kept his body’s immune system high as he worked through his alcohol addiction. Mark also sought distraction and meaning as he went through this process of recovery by frequently volunteering at the Food Bank.
After transitioning to a nursing home, and then his own apartment, Mark entered Los Angeles City College as a full-time student. Within two years Mark had received an Associate Degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Human Services. He entered California State University Los Angeles, on track for a degree in Psychology and plans for graduate school studies in Social Work. He also worked part-time as a case manager in a cold-weather shelter program and for a local social service agency, helping to get others off the streets and headed toward more secure and confident lives just as he had.
The help Mark received from agencies in Westside Food Bank’s service area was crucial to his recovery. “I needed a lot of help and encouragement from the Food Bank and other Westside agencies to get back on my feet,” he says. “But I think it’s paid off now that I’m helping others get off the street and beginning to realize my dream of becoming a Social Worker.”