Daniel Rivera left home when he was 18 and has been in and out of homelessness his entire life, spending time in Los Angeles, Miami and Orlando. Looking back, Mr. Rivera realized that his symptoms of mental illness first surfaced in high school and continued into college. He was depressed, developed social anxiety and was withdrawn.
His Puerto Rican background made it culturally unacceptable to seek help and he turned to street drugs and alcohol. Mr. Rivera would periodically get himself together, secure a job, and then quit or was fired. His use of drugs escalated and peaked with the onset of his mental illness.
Four years ago, Mr. Rivera was picked up by a PATH Street Outreach Team and provided an emergency shelter bed where he began receiving services from Gateways Hospital and Mental Health Center. At the time, he was addicted to methamphetamines and was clinically depressed. But finally he was assigned a case manager with whom he clicked. After six months he left the shelter and found an apartment but became homeless again when he could not afford his rent. He went back to PATH’s shelter and re-connected with his previous case manager who referred him to A Community of Friends where he finally secured affordable housing with consistent on-site support that has allowed for his stability. Now, Mr. Rivera “can concentrate on what he needed to do”.
Mr. Rivera has resided at Fox Normandie Apartments for over two years. It is the longest he has been living anywhere since he left home decades ago. It is also the first time he has held a lease in his own name. In 28 months, Mr. Rivera has made tremendous strides in getting his life back on track. He attends 12 step meetings regularly and just celebrated three years of sobriety. He took classes at Los Angeles City College before enrolling at East Los Angeles College to obtain his AA degree and CAADAC Certificate to become a certified drug and alcohol counselor. Mr. Rivera is adamant about giving back and helping other mental health consumers. One of his early goals was to secure employment. At the recommendation of his case manager, he was hired to work part-time as a Homeless Outreach Peer Advocate at Step Up on Second, a nonprofit mental health agency. Mr. Rivera is currently working full time at Step Up on Second as a Life Skills Coordinator, and attending school part-time.