Ascencia client Derrick is a gentle giant, with a tall imposing figure and a soft voice that belies a song and dance about to burst forth. Twenty years ago, the song on his lips was probably the latest chart topper, and the dance, a smooth two-step as he covered the newest bands around town for the LA Weekly. Derrick has a degree in creative writing and for much of his adult life, he made a living doing what he loved – freelance writing and being a lively personality about town.
Today Derrick is ready to reveal a secret he’s been keeping from his family and friends for the past 2 years. Since 2012, 50 year old Derrick has been struggling with homelessness. He kept that secret stoically. But today he has a job, a new apartment and a realization that keeping his poverty a secret from his loved ones was a way to hide the shame he felt.
“My shame is that I wasn’t able to take care of myself; I wasn’t able to do a basic thing that other people can do without thinking.”
On the contrary, staying afloat during the Great Recession was far from basic for many Americans. Shortly before the economic downturn, Derrick already suffered some setbacks – a layoff, loss of health insurance. In 2008, Derrick pressed on, pursuing that all-American dream of being his own boss. He started a blog covering social justice issues. He loved every minute of it but in the Great Recession, entrepreneurs were hard hit, and nearly 200,000 small businesses in the country closed between 2008 and 2010. Derrick looked for jobs to pay the bills so he could continue his blog. But in 2012, he lost his apartment. Derrick became homeless.
He crashed at a friend’s home for a short while and then found emergency shelters to get off the streets. He tried to find firm footing but hope came in fits and starts. He found a contract writing job that allowed him to get his own place again but after about a year, the work dried up and no one was hiring again.
This summer, Derrick found Ascencia’s 40-bed Emergency Housing program. “I didn’t want to be on Skid Row. I was stunned when I got to Ascencia. It’s different, unique. The living situation is communal and friendly.” At Ascencia, his Case Manager Marlene Muro was able to assist him in getting ready for Glendale’s Rapid Re-Housing program. Within a couple of months, Derrick has found a new job, and with help, has moved into his new studio apartment in East Hollywood. Marlene has high praise for him. “Derrick is a hard-working, decent guy and he’s inspirational because he doesn’t give up.”
“I’m still trying to find my way but I believe that God has a plan for me. He hasn’t taken me this far to fail now. All I want for myself is to be able to pay my rent, pay my bills, put food on the table and save some money for a car.” We know you can do it, Derrick!
Ascencia is proud to provide housing and support services for homeless families, U.S. Veterans and our chronically homeless neighbors. Together, we can help make a lasting change in the lives of real people in our community.
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