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Another Story of Success: How a Guest Services Team Member Turned His Life Around at St. Anthony’s

June 27, 2024

David Wheat, a dedicated member of St. Anthony Foundation’s Guest Services, has an inspiring story of transformation and hope. Born and raised in New Orleans, David’s life took several unexpected turns before he found stability and purpose at St. Anthony’s. His journey from homelessness and addiction to recovery and employment is a testament to the powerful impact of community support and self-determination.

David grew up in a large, supportive family, and moved to North Carolina during high school. Despite these positive influences, life became challenging after he moved to California in 2009. Initially he settled in San Diego, and experienced unemployment and difficulties adjusting to a new environment. He eventually relocated to San Francisco during the pandemic, and found it to be more vibrant and accepting.

In San Francisco, David’s struggles continued. The pandemic exacerbated his addiction issues, leading to homelessness. Reflecting on that time, David said, “I was homeless for about three years. My addiction really kicked in because I had all this money from unemployment and no responsibilities. By the time the pandemic money ran out, I hadn’t secured any jobs or housing.”

David’s path to St. Anthony’s began as a guest, utilizing services for basic needs like food and showers. It wasn’t long before he realized the broader support system available. His turning point came when he happened upon the Father Alfred Center, a part of St. Anthony’s that is dedicated to helping individuals overcome addiction. “I was tired of doing drugs and being on the street,” David shared. “I had heard about Father Alfred Center, and knowing it was connected to St. Anthony’s made me want to do it because I liked St. Anthony’s services.”

The intake process at the Father Alfred Center was serendipitous. “I was looking for a place to sleep and ended up at Father Alfred’s by accident. I knocked on the door, asking if it was Westside Crisis, and they asked if I was looking to get my life together,” David said. This chance encounter led him to a program that changed his life.

David’s experience at the Father Alfred Center was transformative. He initially feared the program would be too rigid, not taking the post-traumatic stress he experienced from living on the streets into account, but he was pleasantly surprised. One of the most impactful aspects of his recovery was the mindfulness class taught by Dr. Newsom. “That was the biggest part of my recovery—being mindful and practicing meditation,” David explained. This practice became a cornerstone of his daily routine, helping him stay grounded and focused on his goals.

After nearly a year at the Father Alfred Center, David transitioned into St. Anthony’s workforce development program, STEPS, which paved the way for his role in Guest Services. “I graduated from the program and started working in Guest Services. It’s a lot of engaging with guests, making clothing appointments, and just helping people,” he said. This role allowed David to give back to the community that supported him, providing a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

David’s journey was not without its challenges, particularly the dual role of being both a client and an employee at St. Anthony’s. Navigating these dynamics required setting boundaries and maintaining a professional demeanor, which David handled with grace. He acknowledged the support and understanding from both colleagues and guests, many of whom recognized and respected his journey.

Looking to the future, David has ambitious goals. He plans to start nursing school, inspired by his desire to help others and follow in his mother’s footsteps. “I really like helping people and being of service. It’s a good career path, and I’m excited about the future,” he said.

David’s story is a powerful reminder of the profound impact of supportive communities like St. Anthony’s. His journey from the streets to a stable, hopeful future underscores the importance of programs that offer not just immediate aid but also pathways to long-term recovery and personal growth.

David’s message to others in similar situations is simple but profound: “Don’t give up. Keep pushing towards your goal. Just don’t get discouraged.” His story is a beacon of hope for anyone facing the challenges of addiction and homelessness, showing that with the right support and determination, a brighter future is always possible.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, explore the transformative programs at Father Alfred Center to find support and a path to recovery. Learn more about their impactful services at here.

Your support helps to ensure that our guests have every opportunity to transform their lives. Please help us continue uplifting San Franciscans through our innovative programs by giving today.

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