Westcare

A Housing Success Story Featuring Diane

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“Following her incarceration, Diane, a mother of two, was enrolled with our Opening Doors to Housing and Wellness program in May of 2020 following her time with MLK Residential where she successfully graduated and transitioned into WestCare’s Recovery Residence for women and mothers, Liberty Plaza. Around this time, she began receiving services from the Day Reporting Center and Opening Doors where we began linking her to community resources such as HIV services and virtual NA/AA groups. Diane was appreciative of us providing her with gas cards and a welcome/cleaning kit for her new apartment when she was housed this past September.

She went on to refer her boyfriend, Christian, who graduated from MLK the same time as her and entered into our McKinney Plaza Recovery Residence for men not long after. The two are currently housed together, doing well and as of mid-December, are expecting a child of their own! Congratulations to you both on your recovery, housing and journey of parenthood that lies ahead!

A journey like Diane’s speaks to the potential in everyone. With the proper motivation, lives change. The next time that you think something is impossible, remember Diane’s story!” – The Staff of Opening Doors to Housing and Wellness/WestCare California, Inc.

Diane’s Recovery Timeline:

– 2019: Incarcerated

– 4/2020: Graduates from MLK Residential

– 5/2020: Enrolls in Opening Doors

– 6/2020: Begins attending AA/NA groups

– 9/2020: Moves into stable housing

– 2021: Sober, housed and expecting

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For over 40 years, WestCare California has been providing an opportunity for individuals to lead fuller, richer lives. Our team of multi-cultural, experienced and credentialed staff is dedicated to providing the best care to everyone who enters our doors. Our goal is to uplift the human spirit by providing the skills and support necessary for individuals to achieve their dreams and transform their lives.

WestCare provides a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments. Our service domains include mental health & wellness, substance abuse and addiction treatment, housing opportunities, education & prevention, criminal justice and veterans programs. These services are available to adults, children, adolescents and families.

WestCare California, Inc. Receives $2.5 Million Bezos Day 1 Families Fund Grant To Help End Homelessness

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On December 9th, 2020, WestCare California, Inc., a behavioral health and human services organization that provides assistance in the areas of housing opportunities, mental health and wellness, Veterans services, criminal justice services, education and prevention as well as treatment and rehabilitation, announced that it has been selected to receive a $2.5 million grant from the Day 1 Families Fund. Launched in 2018 by Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, the Day 1 Families Fund issues annual leadership awards to organizations and civic groups doing compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families.

“Our organization prides itself in the impact that we have made, with the support of the other agencies in our community, to successfully transition the men, women and families that we serve from a state of homelessness to one of dignity, confidence and security. With the generous support that we have received from the Day 1 Families Fund, we will assist even more families in obtaining housing. On behalf of our staff and those that we serve, thank you for joining us in Uplifting the Human Spirit!” said Shawn Jenkins, Deputy Chief Operating Officer of WestCare Foundation’s Western Region.

This one-time grant, awarded to organizations doing meaningful work to connect families with shelter and support, will allow WestCare California to continue to secure permanent, supportive housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, as well as provide wraparound services to help them maintain their independence.

WestCare California is one of 42 nonprofits across the U.S. to receive the third annual Day 1 Families Fund grants, as part of a continuing commitment by the Day 1 Families Fund to help end homelessness for families. The Day 1 Families Fund issued a total of $105.9 million in grants this year. To select these organizations, the fund worked with an advisory board of homelessness advocates and leaders whose expertise spans housing justice, racial equity, direct services, homelessness policy, equity for Native American communities and anti-poverty work.

Through the generosity of the Bezos Day One Fund, we will be able to continue to house and assist more Central Valley families like Akisha’s. This is her story:

“Akisha enrolled at WestCare California’s Home Sweet Home rapid rehousing program in September of 2019. In her initial meeting, our Case Manager learned that her Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was ending and her CalFresh and CalWorks benefits were deactivated. She expressed feelings of frustration and later as we built a relationship, her Case Manger learned she was going through grief and her emotional and mental health desperately needed support.

Step by step, as we set her goals and in a matter of four months, Akisha worked hard and was able to reenroll in her public benefits, gain more income, achieve Section 8 residency and enroll in mental health services.

In late October 2020, she moved out with her daughter, Shairone, into permanent housing, renewed her guard card and is in the process of looking for employment. Shairone is graduating high school early and is already applying to colleges and universities with an interest in pursuing a degree in the medical field!

Through hard work and no matter how tough things became, Akisha never stopped trying and the results of her perseverance are a testament to her accomplishments!”

The Bezos Day One Fund was launched in 2018 with a commitment of $2 billion and a focus on two areas: funding existing nonprofits that help homeless families, and creating a network of new, nonprofit tier-one preschools in low-income communities. The Day 1 Families Fund issues annual leadership awards to organizations and civic groups doing compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families. The vision statement comes from the inspiring Mary’s Place in Seattle: No child sleeps outside. For more information and the full list of recipients, please visit: www.BezosDayOneFund.org/Day1FamiliesFund


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For over 40 years, WestCare California has been providing an opportunity for individuals to lead fuller, richer lives. Our team of multi-cultural, experienced and credentialed staff is dedicated to providing the best care to everyone who enters our doors. Our goal is to uplift the human spirit by providing the skills and support necessary for individuals to achieve their dreams and transform their lives.

WestCare provides a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments. Our service domains include mental health & wellness, substance abuse and addiction treatment, housing opportunities, education & prevention, criminal justice and veterans programs. These services are available to adults, children, adolescents and families.

A Success Story by Ronald C. (SUDT Program Graduate at Sierra Conservation Center)

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We’d like to share a success story by Ronald, a graduate of our Substance Use Disorder Treatment (SUDT) program and former inmate at the Sierra Conservation Center (SCC). With our SCC contract changing to a new provider at the end of April, we’d also like to use this moment to send a very special thank you to the wonderful WestCare California, Inc. staff and leadership at SCC for their many inspiring submissions over the years! Thank you all for Uplifting The Human Spirit through your tireless service to our in-custody program participants!

Ronald Quote (1)

“Hello,

My name is Ronald C. I paroled from CDCR in Jamestown on September 05, 2018.

On August 20, 2014, I made a decision to turn away from my drug using and criminal behavior and turned all my energy from negative to positive. I knew I needed help and I knew I could find that help within CDCR. I was transferred to the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, which had a Substance Abuse Program (SAP).

I was accepted in the SAP there and completed the 6 month Substance Use Disorder Treatment (SUD) program, yet I was wanting more. Later, I was accepted in the first Long Term Offenders Program (LTOP) that catered toward life-term inmates. With these two programs, I was able to identify warning signs that could possibly lead me down a road to negative behavior. The program allowed me to see who I was when I made decisions in my life and who I am today. I learned the difference between remorse and regret and what being responsible for ones actions is all about.

My recovery is not just a matter of abstaining from drugs or criminal behavior. It’s much, much more than that. I maintain my recovery by staying connected to what kept me sober and criminally free. I am encouraged and held accountable for any negative behavior and continue to establish and accomplish new goals.

Today, I surround myself with positive and sober people. I work a full-time clock-punching job for a commercial plumbing company in Riverside, California, make $22.00 an hour and work at least 40 hours a week. I attend AA meetings 2-3 times a week and volunteer at the local Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Program. I sponsor anywhere from 6-8 men there and on Friday nights, I facilitate a Relapse Prevention class to the Beneficiaries at the Adult Rehabilitation Center.

Lastly and mainly, I do not forget where I came from. I owe a great deal of my success and the man I am today to the counselors in that trailer at the Sierra Conservation Center.

Respectfully submitted to whom it may concern or give hope to.”

Sincerely,

Ronald C.

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For over 40 years, WestCare California has been providing an opportunity for individuals to lead fuller, richer lives. Our team of multi-cultural, experienced and credentialed staff is dedicated to providing the best care to everyone who enters our doors. Our goal is to uplift the human spirit by providing the skills and support necessary for individuals to achieve their dreams and transform their lives.

WestCare provides a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments. Our service domains include mental health & wellness, substance abuse and addiction treatment, housing opportunities, education & prevention, criminal justice and veterans programs. These services are available to adults, children, adolescents and families.

A Veteran’s Story: Dustin (Renaissance at Parc Grove)

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Dustin SJVV Quote

We’d like to share a piece about one of the Veterans that we proudly serve, Dustin, a tenant at Renaissance at Parc Grove, an affordable housing complex with 40 units for Veterans and their families, specifically Veterans with or without a disability who are experiencing homelessness.

Dustin, Renaissance Testimonial - Picture

“Dustin has led an eclectic and exciting life. He is always busy doing something and he is consistently working on ways to better himself. This doesn’t surprise me though because he is a Veteran of the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Dustin enlisted in the USMC in 1964 and was a part of the 26 Marines, 5th Marine Division when the United States joined the conflict in Vietnam. He served for four years which concluded in 1968 with an honorable discharge. He then attended Delta College and received an AA in social studies and later spent time at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he majored in film. He supported himself as a factory worker, but then soon turned his sights towards an adventure in Los Angeles.

While living in Los Angeles, Dustin began to work in the entertainment industry. While working as a liaison between musicians and a musical equipment manufacturer, he was able to work with artists such as Bette Midler and Billy Thorpe. He even received a screen credit for Bette Midler’s film, ‘Divine Madness,’ as well as several album credits including one on Billy Thorpe’s second album released in the U.S. Dustin also spent time performing product placement in movies. Soon after leaving the entertainment business, he began his writing career and wrote nine political satire columns for the ‘Sierra Journal.’

It was in 1969 when Dustin tried ‘pot’ for the first time and soon after, he began growing it. In 1996, he started growing it for medicinal purposes. In 1999, he was charged and arrested, but then released as part of the Prop 36 program. After that, he applied for and was granted permission to cultivate in Modesto. When Dustin moved to Merced to purchase a 20 acre farm to continue his medical marijuana efforts, he informed the local health department, his Supervisor and the County CEO. However, he did not inform the Sheriff. Subsequently, he was arrested and the case went to the Federal level. In his words, when he went to trial, he simply had no defense. He was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years for possession of marijuana and five years for having a shotgun.

Dustin spent 19 months at the Fresno County Jail as his case was decided and was then transferred to Big Spring, Texas to a low security federal prison for the next three and a half years. He then spent five and a half years at a minimum security camp in Colorado.  His last two years were spent at the camp in Lompoc, CA followed by his release to a halfway house in Fresno. Instead of spending his time complaining about the position he was in, he turned incarceration into opportunity. He used this time to write and publish his novel, ‘Squirrel Days,’ (which you can purchase on Amazon) and played in numerous prison bands. Dustin was always moving forward, taking advantage of the day by doing something that would help him with his tomorrow. 

Upon his arrival to Fresno, he began working with San Joaquin Valley Veterans (SJVV) and living at a halfway house. With their assistance, he was able to return to school and update his computer skills. He then obtained his California driver’s license and on his first day out, he began to tackle his credit so that he could purchase a car for his future plans – driving for Uber. He attended all of the classes that SJVV had to offer and found out about a new Veterans housing project, Renaissance at Parc Grove. With the help of his SJVV Veteran Advocate, he applied for a unit there and was accepted! He rented his first apartment since prison in June of 2018. However, he was still technically incarcerated. He needed to complete his time in the halfway house first before he could physically move into Renaissance. When all the other Veterans were moving in on the facility’s opening day, Dustin was only able to pay rent on his unit until his release date in September. When his release date came, he was finally was able to walk through the doors of his new apartment.

Dustin is an exemplary tenant and he is always on the go to keep pushing forward. He is a role model for the other residents of how an individual can change their life under any circumstances. Now, after all that he has experienced, he has aspirations of running a private halfway house. This would enable him to draw on his past – both the bad and the good and use it to help others turn their lives around as well. He also wants to keep driving for Uber because he loves meeting the people and hearing just a little bit of their story. He calls it ‘Social media for drivers.’

While creating this piece, Dustin told me, ‘With a little luck, some planning on my part, Fresno Adult School and the consistent support and encouragement from all of the staff at SJVV, I have been able to put my life back together.’ I am sure Dustin will move on from Parc Grove someday as he would like to retire in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. 

Dustin has come a long way from his service in the the USMC to Hollywood to his stint in ‘agriculture,’ which led him to a 15 year Federal Prison sentence. In my time working with him, I have never heard him blame anyone for his difficulties – in fact, he doesn’t speak negatively about his past at all. He took responsibility for his life’s course and remains faithful to the goals and dreams that he has set for himself – and I truly believe that he will achieve all of them! After all, the USMC motto is, ‘Semper Fidelis,’ which means, ‘Always Faithful.'”

 Kelli Bouscher, M.A.,                                                                                                                 Supportive Services Case Manager/ Linkage Specialist                                                           WestCare California, Inc./San Joaquin Valley Veterans: Renaissance at Parc Grove

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For over 40 years, WestCare California has been providing an opportunity for individuals to lead fuller, richer lives. Our team of multi-cultural, experienced and credentialed staff is dedicated to providing the best care to everyone who enters our doors. Our goal is to uplift the human spirit by providing the skills and support necessary for individuals to achieve their dreams and transform their lives.

WestCare provides a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments. Our service domains include mental health & wellness, substance abuse and addiction treatment, housing opportunities, education & prevention, criminal justice and veterans programs. These services are available to adults, children, adolescents and families.

A Testimony by Fernando (SUDT Program Participant at Sierra Conservation Center)

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We’d like to share a piece about not letting your past define your future by Fernando, a participant in our Substance Use Disorder Treatment (SUDT) program and an inmate at the Sierra Conservation Center (SCC).

Fernando Quote

“Hello ladies and gentleman,

Thank you for this opportunity to share my story. My name is Fernando. I’m 28 years old and have been incarcerated for the last seven years. Sadly, as most of us have experienced growing up, this type of environment is not new to me. Being raised in a broken home, I found comfort and love in the wrong places. I quickly gravitated towards a Sureno gang out of the County of Merced and soon found myself on this destructive path.

I now find myself truly growing up and making valuable changes for my future. I’ve since denounced my gang affiliation that once manipulated everything about me, but most importantly – I’ve taken back control of my life. That’s why I’ve decided to become a member of the SUDT program and am hopeful to obtain a new perspective and useful tools to improve my life. I’ll soon, in the near future, be fortunate to rejoin my community and with that, I have a responsibility to make sure this transformation is a success so I can become a productive citizen and an engaged father to my gorgeous daughters in every aspect of their lives because they are my everything. 

As I’ve said previously, growing up in that broken home, I was deprived of the essential role models I needed to ensure a healthy childhood. I think about the relationship I had with my own father. He left me when I was five years old and I never truly got to know him. It is sad because I feel that every boy deserves to have a father in their life. So, it is no secret that I didn’t cry when I found out that he died. It’s not that I wasn’t sad; I just didn’t have it in me to cry for a stranger. My mom wasn’t much different than my dad. She often left me alone to fend for myself when she went out and partied with her friends. Because of this, I had to grow up really fast, which didn’t allow me to get the necessary tools to be successful in the real world. It’s fair to say that the abandonment I experienced from both of my parents affected my parenting skills because I’m here before you instead of attending parent/teacher conferences. 

It’s hard to say, but I’ve continued the cycle. It’s a sad feeling when your own children see you in the same light. Although my princesses do know me, in a sense, I’m a stranger to them. It’s for these reasons as well as wanting to become a better man that I’ve taken steps to change and make a commitment that will bring a new meaning to my life.

I have a way to go, but anything worth having is worth working for. Education is at the top of the list. I will be working towards my GED. I would also like to obtain some job skills and trades so I’ll have several options for employment. I never held a job out there for any significant amount of time. Selling drugs and stealing were more lucrative, which in turn would cause me to be in and out of jail.

My story is not unique outside of it being about me, but many of you hearing this have experienced similar situations, It’s what we do in the end that counts. Before I end, I would like to leave you with this quote that gives me encouragement and hope:

‘Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.’ – Carl Bard

I would also like to thank WestCare for giving me this opportunity to share my story and for the staff who took their time to deal with and heal my broken pieces. Also with the help of my friends who supported and helped me through this: Jonathan, Luis, Freddy and my girlfriend, Karen. WestCare is giving us the opportunity to start something new only if you want that change.”

Thank you,

Fernando - Transparent

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For over 40 years, WestCare California has been providing an opportunity for individuals to lead fuller, richer lives. Our team of multi-cultural, experienced and credentialed staff is dedicated to providing the best care to everyone who enters our doors. Our goal is to uplift the human spirit by providing the skills and support necessary for individuals to achieve their dreams and transform their lives.

WestCare provides a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments. Our service domains include mental health & wellness, substance abuse and addiction treatment, housing opportunities, education & prevention, criminal justice and veterans programs. These services are available to adults, children, adolescents and families.

 

“Thank You, MLK” by Carlos (MLK Residential)

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Carlos - Loop Quote

Foreword“Carlos is a pleasure to have on my caseload and an excellent big brother in the facility. Carlos strives every day to get the most of himself in recovery. He is humble, motivated and eager to learn. His awareness and willingness to do what it takes has transformed his outlook on life already just this first month of treatment. I am excited to see what the future has in store for this man and I am proud of his journey so far.” – Gilbert De La Fuente, Men’s Counselor, MLK Residential

Thank You, MLK

“Where do I start? How about by saying, ‘Yes I can!’ better yet, ‘Yes WE can!’ Yes, we can achieve anything we set our minds to. Yes we can change our lives. Remember, this is the beginning of a new life – it only gets better from here. I would like to take the time to thank the wonderful people that make up the MLK Men’s Residential program.

It Gets Better

 

Men’s Unit Counselors:

To Gilbert: My counselor – thank you for taking the time to listen and give me advice. You are stern when necessary and full of smiles. You are always available to help. Thank you, Gilbert.

To Bryan: MLK’s youngest residential counselor whose ego is at times misunderstood. He doesn’t look a day over twenty and his ego is no higher than he stands. He may not tell you what you want to hear, but 99% of the time, he is telling you what you need to hear. Not only is he professional, but he is a strong believer in the program. ‘It works.’ His appearance and attitude grab the client’s attention and show them that they too can move forward with their lives. Thank you, Bryan.

To Casey: Your classes are a boat load of information, you’re always to the point and you have a no holds barred attitude. His classes are well taught and organized. He gets us into such a comfort zone that you forget that you are amongst staff. He grabs our attention and we always look forward to his lessons. Thank you, Casey.

To Vince: The killer of bullcrap. He means what he says and says what he means. That is an excellent way to show and teach us that everything is not a joke or game. ‘Life is serious. Grow up, earn your way through life and be prepared so you can harvest the splendid things in life,’ are all important life lessons that Vince preaches and teaches. Thank you, Vince.

To Mona: She has such a healing spirit about her that she can will you back into conduct. Thank you, Mona.

To Robert: A soft spoken man whose words are powerful. His positive vibes are much appreciated around MLK. Thank you, Robert.

To Sophia: She is a mixture of all that has already been said. A living masterpiece. Thank you, Sophia.

Men’s Unit Facilitators:

To Mercedes: While your teachings are a bit unconventional, it allows us to improve the changes that need to be made. Her classes are sort of like taking a look in the mirror. We often improvise real life scenarios to see how we would react now that we’re in recovery. She is a different type of facilitator. Thank you, Mercedes.

To John: Always ready to seize the day. He welcomes new clients into the program and gives them a taste of what can be expected during their stay at WestCare. He genuinely cares about the clients and their well-being. You can tell it is not an act. Thank you, John.

To Matt: He is the scenario king, always giving us a raw and new outlook on how to solve and deal with everyday problems. He is a mind and eye-opener. Thank you, Matt.

Men’s Unit Case Managers:

To Bobbi, Jojo & Katie: The Three Musketeers, all for one and one for all. They are all extremely work-oriented. They supply values to our hearts and oxygen to our brains. I would love if my future co-workers are just like them. Thank you, Bobbi, Jojo & Katie.

To Brenda: She is a spark of smiles. She respects all individuals and shows you how important you are in today’s society. She also stresses how important you are as a client at WestCare. She is an outstanding person and full of life. Thank you, Brenda.

WestCare California Administration:

To Kandi: She is a pleasure to be around and is very sweet, kind, caring and interesting. Once you begin to talk to her, it’s like you knew her all of your life. God bless you and thank you for your inspirational talks. I look forward to meeting you again. Thank you, Kandi.

Men’s Vocational Team:

To Deja, Jo & Jeremiah: Wow! What an awesome team. Deja, Jo & Jeremiah are the pillars of the MLK Residential facility. WestCare clients get a new found hope when entering this facility. Their help does not stop with just vocational needs. They leave you with a feeling that you could conquer the world. They represent the, ‘Yes I can’ attitude. I would like to add that Jeremiah has sought out a non-profit organization to donate 5,000 pairs of socks. This staff member actively seeks out resources that could benefit the clientele. Providing comfort helps our community greatly. That in and of itself is very time consuming and when someone gives you their time for the sake of your wellbeing, that is an act of love. Thank you, Deja, Jo & Jeremiah.

Men’s Unit Coordinator:

To Justin: Our supervisor who reminds me of the Statue of Atlas. He is all for all. His cares are also his worries. He keeps this facility in tip top shape and shows no favoritism. If his workers are not at their best, then he is not at his best. He does great at following up with his employees to insure that the clients are receiving the best treatment possible. What goes on behind the curtains is at times displayed in front of all, but it may go unnoticed or unappreciated. I am here to let you know that your work is generous and appreciated. Thank you, Justin.

MLK Kitchen Staff:

To Ms. Charlene, Brandi, Blanca & Pablo: I would like to thank all the cooks on behalf of all the residential clients for providing such superb services. Your cooking has not only filled our stomachs, but our hearts. A special thanks to Trey for suggesting a Father’s Day menu and Brandi for being generous enough to carry it out. Thank you for always having listening ears and caring hearts. Thank you, Ms. Charlene, Brandi, Blanca & Pablo.

Men’s Core Members:

To Core: I will and cannot forget about the Core members as they are the future leaders of our community. They represent the clients’ voice and step up when needed. They are so appreciated and respected; true friends indeed. I picture them as the Knights of the Round Table, gladiators or Jedi warriors. They have the courage to advocate for what is right; they are models of positivity. Thank you, Core members.

Lastly, I would like to thank all of the WestCare staff at MLK that did not get mentioned by name. Your time and concern for the clients’ well-being is greatly appreciated. They are all hard workers and all deserve to be recognized.

Thank you, MLK.”

Sincerely,

Carlos Signature

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For over 40 years, WestCare California has been providing an opportunity for individuals to lead fuller, richer lives. Our team of multi-cultural, experienced and credentialed staff is dedicated to providing the best care to everyone who enters our doors. Our goal is to uplift the human spirit by providing the skills and support necessary for individuals to achieve their dreams and transform their lives.

WestCare provides a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments. Our service domains include mental health & wellness, substance abuse and addiction treatment, housing opportunities, education & prevention, criminal justice and veterans programs. These services are available to adults, children, adolescents and families.

“The Perception of Growth”, a Poem by Sarah (HomeFront GPD)

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We’d like to share an uplifting poem written by Sarah from our HomeFront GPD transitional living program for women Veterans with/without children. She wrote this poem for this year’s Creative Arts Competition presented by the VA Central California Health Care System and was awarded first place in her respective category! Congratulations and thank you for sharing, Sarah!

Sarah HomeFront Quote

“The Perception of Growth”

“In the essence of a journey

One gets to decide your fate.

What will it be?

You ask yourself repeatedly.

As I close my eyes, the sandman approaches and sprinkles the dust over my ambiance.

What will it be?

How will you begin your day to move forward he asks me?

How do you want to define yourself on this road?

Day after day I push and I push

Again and again through this chaotic struggle.

With ambition

Dipping my toe into the water

Patiently burgeoning

That’s the beauty of progress

Owning your experience

Not to out run your past

Or bask in the pandemonium

Remember that one who gets to decide your fate?

Look in the mirror

What do you see?

You want me to tell you what I see?

I see a fire in her eyes

The rivers in her soul

I see the improvements she makes day in and day out

Someone who desires for something greater than herself

Using that pain

Breaking that barrier

He whispers, ‘You are a sunflower

of the earth that grew too tall’

She smiled, amicably continued planting those seeds.

This year she learned to walk a new path

This year she learned to adapt to change

She learned what you import, you export

She learned that iron sharpens Iron

She learned to grow.”

– Sarah

IMG_0931

 

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For over 40 years, WestCare California has been providing an opportunity for individuals to lead fuller, richer lives. Our team of multi-cultural, experienced and credentialed staff is dedicated to providing the best care to everyone who enters our doors. Our goal is to uplift the human spirit by providing the skills and support necessary for individuals to achieve their dreams and transform their lives.

WestCare provides a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments. Our service domains include mental health & wellness, substance abuse and addiction treatment, housing opportunities, education & prevention, criminal justice and veterans programs. These services are available to adults, children, adolescents and families.

“I Am Greatness!”, a Poem by Rose (SUDT Program Participant at Sierra Conservation Center)

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We’d like to share an uplifting poem written in honor of Black History Month by Rose, a SUDT Program Participant and inmate at the Sierra Conservation Center (SCC).

Rose Quote

“I Am Greatness!”

“I am greatness, embarking on a path to uncover my past that has been erased, encased in the temple and pyramids of great kings and unseen to the naked eye… stepping high through the sands of Ethiopia’s Motherland, brother man…

I am greatness, as vast as the Niger River that slivers through the West African plains, before the chains and things that you try to connect us to, before our past became painful, before invasions, before destruction, before we were reluctant to trust – this was us.

I am greatness, unified in the spirit of heroes from the past, whose history has been shattered like glass from archives and replaced with more jive, King of Menes of Ethiopia, King Kalydosos of Makuria, Queen Nzinga of Angola, of soldiers and sistas, I missed us in our greatness.

But, I am greatness, with a desire and need, to study and read about my people that were an equal to all in the old days of vast kingdoms. Civilizations that strived under one constitution, with no constant shooting of each other. My brother, do you hear me…

I am greatness and I relate this to the early education of my people, the interlocking responsibilities that were willing these endugus to stay true in their social, economic and political roles; their souls speak to me to educate myself, as well as others who have been smothered in the manipulation.

I am greatness, with many mistakes made, lost and self-enslaved in my bad choices. No one’s fault but my own, that I’m alone down this wrong turn from my destiny. I should have seen this end at the beginning, but I didn’t, but I’m kidding if I don’t wake up and take up the mantle, dismantle and handle my business for real.

I am greatness and I teach this to other brothers’ surprise so that their third eye can open and they stop choking off false truths. I am a Hamite with light so bright inside of me that you can’t lie to me at all and make me fall from my grace; it’s written all over my face.

I am greatness, speaking from the tombs of my people, the wounds of my people run deep, none sleep for the pain it haunts us to this day. The N word, the sin heard from across the nation, lost my patience with my anger because I’m a stranger to what’s fair, but what’s clear…

I am greatness from Martin Luther King’s ‘I had a Dream’ that seemed so long away to Malcom X’s ‘By Any Means Necessary’ – so scary a time to live in and not give in to the hate. But, that is what greatness means for us all – for the short and tall, the heavy and small, the black, the white, the Mexican, the light, the right, the wrong, the same sad song that no longer needs to play, so I say…

Be greatness in what you do, be greatness in being you, because there’s only one true path; don’t let it pass, take off the mask, I did… Now, I Am Greatness!– Rose

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For over 40 years, WestCare California has been providing an opportunity for individuals to lead fuller, richer lives. Our team of multi-cultural, experienced and credentialed staff is dedicated to providing the best care to everyone who enters our doors. Our goal is to uplift the human spirit by providing the skills and support necessary for individuals to achieve their dreams and transform their lives.

WestCare provides a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments. Our service domains include mental health & wellness, substance abuse and addiction treatment, housing opportunities, education & prevention, criminal justice and veterans programs. These services are available to adults, children, adolescents and families.

 

A Testimony by Billy (LTOP Program Participant at Sierra Conservation Center)

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We’d like to share a piece on not letting your past and conditions define you by Billy, a participant in our Long-Term Offender Program (LTOP) and an inmate that is currently serving a commuted term of 41 years to life at the Sierra Conservation Center (SCC).

Billy T. Testimonial

“Good morning to the community. My name is Billy. I am 59 years old and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. I started this sentence 71 days into my 18th birthday and have been incarcerated for the last 41 years.

Before I begin to share my experience of life without the possibility of parole, I feel it is prudent to give a description of my life before I committed my crime. On November 3, 1977, I was put into a corner while trying to help a new 14-year-old mother and her small baby. We had no food and nowhere to stay. The baby was hungry and the circumstances propelled me towards what would eventually result in a robbery and a murder. After my arrest, I took full responsibility and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The 14-year-old mother served time for second-degree murder and has now been free for many years.

At the time of my sentence, I had no idea what my term would actually entail. The true weight and meaning of the sentence became inescapably apparent the day that I walked into the California Department of Corrections. The thought of never leaving such a place just about drained the life out of me. However, instead of giving up hope, I made a choice that would eventually become my lifelong motto – To change for the better. That change was not just for me, but for those whom I hurt during my life of crime. After making that oath, I was able to not only face my sentence, but actually live it instead of dying a little every day. I committed myself to never give up on my life without a fight.

The other difficult part of my sentence was dealing with the guilt that I felt. Counselors and others have told me to forgive myself and move forward with life, however that is often easier said than done. But, 41 years of incarceration has helped me to move on only slightly.

Over the years, I have earned countless certificates and attended many self-help groups. Even with these accomplishments, the guilt of taking another man’s life still plagues me. I took an innocent man’s life. My victim should have never died that day because of my actions. As a result of my poor decisions, I am determined to pay my restitution to society for the rest of my life. Being in this group today is part of my restitution.

While real change is a lifelong pursuit, I am not the man I once was nor will I ever hurt another human being again. During the course of my prison term, I have never sought comfort from drugs. I have avoided gangs and the lure of violence and corruption. I have instead chosen to educate myself and have learned how to read and write. I now embrace knowledge. I have learned to treat others with respect and empathy. I show kindness to those around me and at all costs, focus on doing what is good and meaningful. These life changing traits did not go unnoticed.

On November 21, 2018, my sentence was commuted from life without parole to 41 years to life by former California Governor, Jerry Brown. The opportunity I had sought for so many years was granted to me. I encourage all of you to change your lives and stay focused on positivity.” – Billy

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For over 40 years, WestCare California has been providing an opportunity for individuals to lead fuller, richer lives. Our team of multi-cultural, experienced and credentialed staff is dedicated to providing the best care to everyone who enters our doors. Our goal is to uplift the human spirit by providing the skills and support necessary for individuals to achieve their dreams and transform their lives.

WestCare provides a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments. Our service domains include mental health & wellness, substance abuse and addiction treatment, housing opportunities, education & prevention, criminal justice and veterans programs. These services are available to adults, children, adolescents and families.

 

A Story by Paul (SUDT Program Participant at Sierra Conservation Center)

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We’d like to share a candid piece written by Paul, a participant in our Substance Use Disorder Treatment (SUDT) program and an inmate that is currently serving a life term at the Sierra Conservation Center (SCC).

Paul Testimonial

“This is a story about me, a story based on a happy-go-lucky kid who wouldn’t take a nap unless he was taken for a ride on a tractor. What good times… if I could only stay in those times when I was four or five years old. Just innocence with no memories of my mom using drugs in front of me, of her being abused by her boyfriends, me being scared to death of them and of me trying to get any ounce of love or attention from my mom. Drugs and partying were more important, though. It’s real lonely locked in the cab of a truck all night while mom’s getting drunk at the bar. It’s real lonely roaming the woods and orchards at seven and eight years old so you don’t have to go home. Home’s where the drugs, violence and mom’s boyfriend are.

So, the disconnect starts to happen, even at age eight or nine. I felt that since nobody else cares, why should I care? Instead of acting out, I withdrew inward. ‘I must be worthless if mom won’t protect me from being treated like a piece of crap,’ I thought. ‘What’s that they say about her? It happens to her even worse.’

‘School sucks. I have to make sure nobody knows about the drugs and all the pot plants out back, or else! So, no friends. It’s just me, my pellet gun and watching out for anything that moves.’ The longer I spent with myself, the more withdrawn I’d become.

Now, I’m 10 years old and dad’s somewhat pulled himself out of a drunken stupor he’s been in for a decade or more. I’ll give him a try. My 10-year-old brain thinks that will fix everything. The problem is, if you put a dysfunctional little kid in any setting, he’s still the same dysfunctional kid. So, now it’s my stepmom who is the problem. So, as lonely as those woods and orchards were when I roamed them all alone, my room all by myself with a thousand page novel was even worse.

I found a few friends, though. I found in them the validation that I never found in my parents. I made the choice that anything that I had to do to be accepted, I would do. I got suspended for bringing a knife to school to impress my friends. Afterwards, a whole new side of my stepmom came out when she hit me on the head with a bottle of Palmolive dish soap. So, I ran away four miles all the way to town through pear orchards, creeks and woods. This cycle of nonsense continued for about one and a half years. Eventually, my dad kicked me in the ass and told me to go live with my Grandpa. I thought, ‘That’s great because Grandma and Grandpa buy me things. They have a farm and I get dirt bikes and guns to mess with.’ More confusion began to set in as I chose to associate love with possessions. This is the point where I chose to introduce drugs into the equation. I felt that as long as my work got done, I could do whatever. I still wanted to be accepted, ‘So, hell yeah, I’ll try anything,’ I thought. After all, I’d seen it done a thousand times by my parents. I had a choice and I chose to be accepted.

I was now drunk on acceptance and I needed more and more. ‘Let’s run around, get high, ride dirt bikes, shoot guns, etc.’ I found a new group and thought, ‘Hell yeah, they’re crazy as hell with no connection to family or society, just drugs, violence and dysfunction.’ Great combination, right? It was at this time that I went from victim to victimizer. I chose to help my friend murder another one of my friends. We were all 16-year-old kids, juniors in high school. I just wanted to be accepted and never gave any consideration to what I was doing or the pain and suffering that followed. Can you imagine being a parent and having to open your door to two Sheriff Deputies who are telling you that your kid has been murdered? The anguish, it destroys your life. Everyday for the rest of your life is filled with this one moment in time. You don’t get to see your kid graduate high school. No college, no grandkids, no career! I could of chosen to do the right thing at anytime, but I didn’t. 

I came to prison the same selfish, dysfunctional person who was seeking acceptance. I was engaged in extensive violence, adopted racist beliefs and joined a prison gang, had people victimized and spent the better part of 16 years in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Secure Housing Unit. Fourteen years straight the last time, then I dropped out and left the gang life behind. Since then, I’ve tried to find why this withdrawn and shy little kid would go on to abuse drugs, commit murder, become a racist prison gang member, have no remorse or self-worth and be in denial of it all and more importantly, how to change that. 

Here’s the most direct explanation I can give today: That wasn’t WHO I AM. I discovered that I put up a protective shell around that happy-go-lucky kid and developed false fronts, masks, traits or whatever you’d like to call them to deal with my loneliness. If you believe you’re worthless, the loneliness is easier. I didn’t need anyone to tell me I’m worthless anymore, I did it to myself. If shy and silent Paul was developed past that, it would have saved some abuse. Just avoid it at all costs, roaming the woods. I discovered that I carried all of these traits into my teenage years and built even more traits to help deal with the need to be accepted: The ‘I don’t care’ or reckless trait, the drug user trait, the ‘It’s all cool’ trait and it goes on and on – All just to fit in.

I discovered that I lacked any connection to people because I didn’t love myself. I felt that I had no value and closed myself off by 10 years old. I discovered that lack of love and value was directly connected to my participation in the murder of a friend, my acts of violence in prison, joining a gang and perpetuating racist hate for decades. If you don’t love yourself, you’ll never love anyone else. Most importantly, I discovered that it’s about forgiveness. Forgiveness is a choice. We don’t need to understand the who, what, when, where or why’s to start to forgive. So, I choose to forgive. To forgive my mom for exposing me to drugs and violence. To forgive my dad for abandoning me. To forgive my mom’s boyfriend for abusing her and I. To forgive my stepmom for all the abuse. (They all have a story too, but I don’t know their history, pain or childhood.) But, most importantly, I forgive myself. How can I ask for forgiveness if I’m not willing to give it?

I also believe that it’s about love. But, what do I know about love? I’ve never felt it and never gave it to anyone, let alone myself. So, how does a man who probably doesn’t deserve it, find love for himself and others? It starts with, yup, forgiveness and then acceptance of myself, the good and more importantly, the bad. No more guilt, shame, resentments and most importantly, lack of self-worth. I chose to wake up everyday and reaffirm WHO I AM and that I have value as a person. I will continue on this path to get back that happy-go-lucky kid who would only nap if he got a ride on the tractor.

The closer I get to my core-self, the closer I get to being healed. Being healed means no more victims. Everything I do is for my victims and all victims. It’s all about the choices I make today.” – Paul

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For over 40 years, WestCare California has been providing an opportunity for individuals to lead fuller, richer lives. Our team of multi-cultural, experienced and credentialed staff is dedicated to providing the best care to everyone who enters our doors. Our goal is to uplift the human spirit by providing the skills and support necessary for individuals to achieve their dreams and transform their lives.

WestCare provides a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments. Our service domains include mental health & wellness, substance abuse and addiction treatment, housing opportunities, education & prevention, criminal justice and veterans programs. These services are available to adults, children, adolescents and families.