Project Description

Rebuilding Yourself, One Step at a Time

One man’s journey to renew his life through health education

Rafael gathers his belongings early in the morning, having slept on the steps of the Madeleine Cathedral the night before. His sleeping bag, a piece of cardboard used as a mat, and his water bottle – frozen solid from the frigid air – the only items in his possession.

But it wasn’t always this way.

“I went from never having to think about money to sleeping on cardboard,” Rafael said.

Rafael was in restaurant operations and managerial training for a large foodservice corporation, flying between several cities in the US every few days. Migrating from Mexico at age 16, he started busing tables, became a cook, then assistant manager, then general manager of a restaurant in San Diego. From there, he quickly moved up the corporate ladder. His job moved him to Salt Lake City to open restaurants in the valley, and began living in Sandy.

A whirlwind of situations, thrown at him at once, left him homeless. A complicated divorce, coupled with his mother’s death, sent Rafael down a spiral into homelessness. He flew to Mexico to say goodbye to his mother, and when he came back, he lost his house in the divorce. He continued to work, but his company hired a private management company to tend to the restaurants he was overseeing – making him redundant.

“On top of everything else, I found myself with no job. The financial drain of the funeral and divorce left me moneyless. Friendless. I was disconnected from my family because pride got in the way. I didn’t want to tell people that I was on the streets with nothing but a backpack, walking around aimlessly,” Rafael says, his sincere eyes hiding behind his sunglasses.

How the decision to quit smoking changed everything

The morning he awoke on the steps of the Madeleine cathedral was one he would soon never forget. As the sun started to bleed onto the façade of the cathedral, Rafael walked toward the northwest corner of South Temple and C Street. His usual routine of getting a sandwich and cocoa from the Good Samaritan House was disrupted—closed, the sign out front said.

“Another guy there – also hoping for a sandwich – suggested we go to Fourth Street Clinic. He said ‘Hey, they have a meeting there called Smoking Cessation. They give you a $5 gift certificate for sitting through the meeting’ and I thought: why not?”

What Rafael didn’t expect were the changes he made because of the tobacco education class. He got the gift card, sure, but he found himself attending the class week after week. Soon enough, Rafael became tobacco-free; he put the tools he learned to good use and began co-teaching the tobacco cessation class. His personal testament to breaking the addiction of nicotine gave his peers strength in improving their lives.

Because of continued health education classes offered to patients at Fourth Street Clinic, individuals like Rafael can learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle on their own. Courses such as diabetes wellness, anger management and tobacco cessation give homeless men and women a better chance at improving their lives from within.

When you donate to Fourth Street Clinic, you are not only giving the gift of a medical visit to a homeless Utahn. You are giving them opportunities to learn self care practices that go beyond a prescription.

Donate now and help us improve the lives of our vulnerable neighbors:

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