I’m sure you expect me to say that after living at LA Family Housing, everything changed for the better - well, that’s not my story.
When I was 14, I lived in LA Family Housing’s Valley Shelter.
For the majority of my childhood, my parents struggled with addiction and my life was incredibly unstable.
As a teenager experiencing homelessness, I was ashamed, embarrassed, and angry. I hid the truth from my friends, making them drop me off down the street after basketball practice instead of in front of the motel shelter.
Somewhere between walking home before the shelter curfew and waking up early to catch the bus, I made myself a promise - I would do everything within my power to ensure my kids experienced a better childhood than I did.
After we moved on, my parents continued to struggle. Once I turned 18, I moved out, completed my 2nd semester of my senior of high school and then went to college. After working several odd jobs, I started my own company that was focused on youth sports. From there I became a real estate agent and then eventually launched Winston Group Realty, a real estate brokerage in Sherman Oaks.
Years later, when I was finally in the position to give back to a cause that is meaningful to me, of course I chose LA Family Housing.
My family’s short stay at Valley Shelter 30 years ago (now the site of The Campus) was a defining moment in my life. And in the grand scheme of the past, it helped me in ways I was too young to understand.
As an adult, I don’t take for granted that I have a roof over my head and that my kids are safe.
I give because I’m raising resilient children.
So much was out of my control as a teenager. I was at the mercy of my parent’s decisions, and sadly, their addictions.
I always tell my kids “Don’t focus on what you can’t control. Focus on what you can. If you do that, you’ll realize how powerful you truly are.” I want my kids to know that their story is theirs to write.
I give because I understand that some situations are beyond our control.
There is no “deserving poor.” We are all human. Sometimes people make poor decisions. But everyone deserves the dignity of a home no matter their background or their vices.
LA Family Housing could have denied my parents a place to sleep. Where would that have left me? My brother and sisters?
I give because I know I can change a person’s life.
Outside of my teenage angst, there were definitely bright spots about living at Valley Shelter. Reliable meals - of course - but there were also Christmas, which no matter how old or aloof I tried to act, I was still excited about.
Volunteers and donors swarmed the shelter and passed out gifts. One organization even brought in snow! Now that was pretty cool. It amazed my younger brother and put a smile on my face.
Strangers with no connection to us spent their time and money to make us happy. Even for a just a season…and it mattered.
I give because I’m grateful.
It’s rewarding to look back and see where I started. Here I am today, married for over a decade, with four beautiful children and my own business that supports our everyday lives and our future dreams. Yet, I’m always aware that things could have been much different for me. I’ve shared the same experience that 53,000 people experience every day in Los Angeles: I was homeless.
I give because I can.
Today I’m proud to serve on LA Family Housing’s board, offering input and guidance that will touch thousands of men, women, and children in crisis. Homelessness was my past, and helping to end it in people lives…well, that’s my legacy.