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YEARS LATER, ANTHONY IS ‘PROUD’ TO HAVE BEEN PART OF THE MISSION PROGRAM
When Anthony arrived at the Mission a few years ago, he was coming off a long time on the streets, including on Skid Row. “If I saw a needle on the ground with a little something in it, I would pick it up and stick it in my arm,” he said. “That’s how bad it was. And I’m still here. … I can’t believe it.”
Anthony had married young and had three children. “I had my first son when I was 17, and had two more by the time I was 21,” he said. “I tried to be a young father. I married the mother and we tried to make a life together. Upon losing that, I fell off the deep end.”
Anthony said he’d always been an alcoholic but didn’t think too much of it. “As the years progressed, it got worse. I got a girlfriend that introduced me to heavier drugs—I had never done that stuff before. I started smoking meth and six months later, I was (injecting) heroin.”
Anthony worked sporadic jobs and had multiple girlfriends. “I was a good steady drug addict for 15 years,” he said. “I had multiple ODs, I was getting in trouble and was in and out of jail—all that comes with addiction. I was in this destructive pattern mode, not taking responsibility. In my head, I had it all figured out, and you couldn’t tell me anything.
“It was bad. If you saw me walking down the street you could point me out—‘That guy is a drug addict.’”
Anthony went through some recovery programs, but didn’t commit. “I graduated from the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, but I walked away still wanting to drink,” he said.
After some time on Skid Row, Anthony said he was “escorted out of LA” by a group of homeless people—and the police. “There are little communities down there and I was egging everybody on, starting fights, messing up their camps,” he said. “They all wanted me out or they were going to kill me.”
Anthony started riding trains, landing in San Luis Obispo where he tried to get clean on his own. “That didn’t work out, so I looked up the Mission,” said Anthony. That was almost four years ago. “I was pretty strung out, homeless … But there was so much love and warmth in that house. They did nothing but love on us.”
The smaller program was a better fit for Anthony. “There was so much more one-on-one activity. There were only six guys there when I was there, so you really have to get involved. We were a unit—a brotherhood.”
The classes and vocational training at the thrift store kept Anthony busy. “I really submitted to the program,” he said. “You can get away from all the madness of the world and focus on the classes, the (vocational training), the fellowship with the fellas. I really took advantage of that good. I was proud to be a part of it. It’s probably one of the best experiences of my life.
“People really cared—they were on fire for us. I got to spend a lot of time getting into the Word and figuring out what God had planned for me. I made a connection with my creator.”
Anthony admits he’s had some hardships since graduation, but is focused on staying on the right track. He lives in Ventura near where he grew up. “I live in a sober living house, attend church weekly at New Life, and do a lot of AA and NA meetings,” he said. “My faith has never left me. The biggest thing I got out of the program, the most important thing, is my relationship with God. I’m no longer homeless, I have a car, and I talk to my family every week.
“I have a couple things to sort out— there’s the wreckage of my past,” he added. “But I’m not on probation or parole. I haven’t been arrested in years. I spent 15 years in trouble and I don’t want to cause any more problems.”
Down the road, Anthony plans to move out to Tennessee where his parents live. But he’ll always reflect positively on his time at the Mission. “I hold all those guys in that experience close to my heart,” he said. “I was lost and they gave me a chance to rest my body, mind and soul. I’ll always be grateful for what they did for me.”
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