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Bert tires of living on the streets, starts anew at the mission
Bert was born in Los Angeles and raised in the San Gabriel Valley, where he spent more than 20 years. But about 25 years ago, Bert’s mom relocated to the High Desert. “I’ve been here ever since,” he said.
Bert stayed with his mom and worked in a variety of fields. “I’ve done everything across the board,” he said. “I’ve done some construction, worked for a couple factories, and I’ve done a lot of yardwork. My brother used to have a tree service and I worked with him. Until just a few years ago I was doing landscaping, painting, drywall—everything.”
When Bert’s mom, along with his brother and other family members, all moved down the hill to Fontana, he decided to stay. Bert moved in with his girlfriend for a few years until the relationship ended. Unfortunately, when the two parted ways, Bert had nowhere to go. “When things didn’t work out with my girlfriend, I was on my own,” Bert said. “I started drinking a lot, and it wasn’t good. I kept losing my phone, so (landscaping) clients couldn’t get ahold of me and then stopped trying. It was understandable. I was slacking off.”
Without steady work and with an increase in his alcohol use, Bert found himself homeless. “I was on the streets off and on for four or five years,” he said. “I was all over this area—Hesperia, Apple Valley, Victorville.”
At one point, Bert tried to get sober on his own. “I stopped for a good five months,” he said. “But there’s always some good occasion or bad occasion that makes you find an excuse to get back into it and I did. And I started getting arrested for drunk in public. I’m not talking staggering down the street or anything. But when you smell like alcohol, and you talk to an officer, you’re going to get (arrested for) a drunk in public.”
After a few years, Bert tired of his situation. “Being on the streets is no fun—anyone can verify that,” he said. “I got tired of drinking. It always leads to the same thing—every day, the same old thing. I’d go looking for work, and I’d always at some point in the day start thinking, ‘Where am I going to stay tonight?’ I just got tired of it.”
Bert shopped at the Victor Valley Super Thrift store often and, one day, saw a pamphlet about the mission’s life recovery program. He reached out to the staff and interviewed. He’s been at the mission now for four months. “It was a big difference coming here, but it’s been great,” Bert said. “I haven’t been drinking. And smoking cigarettes, that’s always gone hand-in-hand with drinking for me, but I stopped that right away too.”
Bert had tried a local, three-month program before, but feels like the mission is a better fit for him. “The staff is so understanding and patient,” he said. “The other guys are all really good. Everyone has their own issues, but things seem to be coming out OK. We may have words exchanged since we all have our certain ways, but we just walk our own way and get through it.”
Bert grew up Catholic and, as a child, his mom made sure they went to church weekly. “It was a must every Sunday,” he said. “But as far as reading the bible, I never really got into that. I just need to practice and keep reading. I’m trying to get into the book. I’m trying to learn, but I’m a slow learner. One of the other men helps me out. He seems to know what he’s doing, so he’s helping me catch on.”
Looking forward, Bert has simple and important goals. “I’m hoping to read more of the book, and really get to know Christ,” he said. “And of course I want to definitely stop drinking (permanently) and get back on my feet. I want to find a regular 9-to-5 job.
“I think it’s going all right so far. I’m putting more and more effort into it. I want to improve myself. Time just goes by too quick. I look back and wonder where all the years went.”
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