by Guitar Whitfield
[dropcap]I[/dropcap] want everyone to have a decent life in America. People are running around hungry and homeless. People need to help one another. I see some people on the streets getting help. I got help and I want others to get help too.
I came to the Bay Area from Las Vegas at a time I wanted to make a change in my life. I wanted to be near my children and grandchildren. I didn’t know what I was going to do or where I’d live. Then my brother and sister-in-law introduced me to St. Mary’s Center.
When I entered St. Mary’s, I was offered shelter, food, counseling, social skill development, and access to transportation, medical care, career development, and affordable transitional and permanent housing. I met regularly with a case manager. Staff at St. Mary’s work straight from the heart. I saw that if I gave the program a chance, something would work for me. I felt hope.
I started to learn about homelessness. I met and felt for people who are homeless and became connected to people. I had to humble myself and see I had been living a fast life. I needed to stop a lush life of splurging. To stay in the shelter, I had to start saving one-half of my monthly income. I had never done that before. I saved money and my savings added up!
I applied for housing and needed someone to advocate for me. Sister Mary Nolan wrote a letter of recommendation to accompany my applications. Her statement helped to show my accountability and participation in St. Mary’s programs.
While I was at St. Mary’s, I stayed in touch with my craft: playing the guitar. Within the gated and manicured community of St. Mary’s, I continued to play music. What more could I ask for?
I moved into subsidized housing at Merritt Crossing Senior Apartments in Oakland. I was grateful for the advocacy that I had received. Now I volunteer with St. Mary’s, East Bay Housing Organizations, Satellite Housing, and Affordable Housing Associates to help build opportunities for others.
As a Hope and Justice Senior Advocate, I speak out primarily for affordable housing. I also play music for these organizations at events throughout the community.
I’m about giving. If I can advocate and play music for the benefit of other people, I will.