Member Spotlight: Mario

“Living down by the river, I was most scared of the animals. You never knew when a coyote or a mountain lion might get too close. But the worst part was the loneliness. I really missed my family.”

For most of his 50s, Mario lived in a tent near the river in his city. He had come to the city looking for work but found that – despite all he had heard – job opportunities were not very plentiful. Unfortunately, going home wasn’t an option either. The orchards near his family, where Mario had spent most of his life working, were changing. Technology advanced and opportunities for work like his became scarce. As machines for harvesting took over, Mario saw his livelihood slipping away.

 “There was nothing left for me in my hometown,” said Mario. “But experiencing homelessness in the city? Every day felt like I was just trying to survive.”

For nearly a decade, Mario fought this battle as he lived unhoused. To help meet his basic needs, he would visit a local agency for food assistance, temporary shelter, and a hot shower. Occasionally, they even had day-work opportunities for him. These opportunities provided money to help Mario afford necessities, but it was barely enough to make ends meet – let alone to save for the first month’s rent and a security deposit needed to become safely housed again.

After years of living unhoused, the stress of just trying to survive finally took its toll on his body. One day Mario woke with a limp. After being rushed to the emergency room, he received the devastating news that he had experienced three strokes. Mario spent some time recovering at his sister’s home, but there wasn’t room for him there long-term. Once he was stable enough, and with nowhere else to go, he made his way back to the city.

But this time when he arrived in the city, things were different. Mario went for assistance and learned that a new permanent supportive housing program had just opened to help people like him. He met a Step Up employee who shared the life-changing news: Mario was eligible for permanent supportive housing, and in the meantime, they would help him find temporary shelter.

That night Mario slept in a motel – a far cry from the expected tent down by the river.

For the next few months, Mario lived in the motel while Step Up helped him work through paperwork and get connected to the support he needed.

“Meeting Step Up was amazing!” said Mario. “They helped me get housing vouchers, and every day they were looking for a place for me to live. I couldn’t believe that a program like this existed.”

Finally, the day came when Step Up found Mario his own apartment.

“I remember walking into the apartment and thinking ‘This is it. I’m finally home,’” said Mario. “And it’snear the light rail, so I’m able to visit my family.”

Mario has been in his Step Up apartment for a little over a year now. The strokes resulted in a blood clot, severely limiting his mobility, but Step Up helped him get a scooter. With his newfound freedom, he loves to go on adventures with his German Shepard, Baby. One of their favorite places to go is down to the river. Being there doesn’t mean what it once did now that Mario has a safe place to go home to. Instead, it’s a place to sit in quiet contemplation, feeding the ducks and practicing gratitude.

“I don’t know if you believe in miracles but Step Up got me one,” said Mario. “I didn’t think I was ever gonna get out. I’m so grateful to Step Up and I’m so grateful for all of the help. It was unbelievable. Step Up is amazing!”



Mario’s story of recovery is made possible in part thanks to the programs and services supported by people like you. To help bring more people like Mario home, make a donation today

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