"I owe Vinnie. He just took care of me, and I needed [that] warmth and the friendship. The camaraderie of another human being was just beautiful. I never had a friend. Vinnie was the first friend I ever had in my life."
My name is Michelle. I live in Fremont, California. I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and lived there for 31 years. After my father passed away, my mother moved to Florida, but I didn't like it there, so I eventually returned to California.
I've had a difficult life. My parents started committing me to mental institutions when I was 23 years old. The rabbi played a role in this, as he called the police on me. I never had a normal life, even though I went to college and got an education. I didn't learn the practical skills needed to navigate society and deal with authorities and people in power.
When I arrived in California, I was on skid row and desperately seeking help. I called shelters and organizations for the homeless, but nobody would sponsor or assist me. Vinnie was the first person I could connect with. He took me under his wing and nurtured me. He feels like a mother figure to me. Vinnie is a pastor and a scholar.
I met Vinnie when I was sleeping in front of a Burger King in Oakland. He provided me with a blanket and food. We've been together every day for nearly 5 and a half years. I feel like God sent him to me.
Finding a place to rent was challenging, but they eventually found one. However, the house is falling apart and not worth the high rent we pay.
There are six of us living together in the house. Vinnie sleeps over some nights, and there are two bedrooms. Ingrid and George share one bedroom, and they wake up early to distribute food bags in Oakland. They work tirelessly and selflessly.
Vinnie, George, Ingrid, Georgie (their son), Tyler, and I all get along. Tyler helps with networking and securing grants and funding for the mission. We rely on prayer and the support of people who believe in our work to pay the rent.
I receive social security, but it's not enough to live on. We rely on prayer and the generosity of others to meet our needs. We also get food from the food bank in Emeryville.
The mission is really important. It saves lives. It helps people that no one else wants to help, that they’ve totally given up on. It’s been very hard for Vinnie. He needs more people to come out and serve, serve in the trenches so to speak.
He saves a lot of lives and keeps a lot of people going that otherwise would be left for dead. Including myself. I owe Vinnie. He just took care of me, and I needed the warmth and the friendship, the camaraderie of another human being was just beautiful. I never had a friend, Vinnie was the first friend I ever had in my life.
Most of the time, the tape, the recording in my head is "you're not good enough." Nothing’s gonna work. All the negativity, which I’m trying to get rid of. Vinnie helped with that. He helped with everything.
It would be nice if people would help out the mission. We’re the only group that does what we do, where we help people that everybody else has just written off as not being able to be helped. We give out food, we give out blankets, shoes. Vinnie has been able to get people off the street helping in every way. It would...a lot of people talk about the word of God, but they don’t do anything.
I believe in a more equal society where extreme wealth doesn't coexist with extreme poverty. The stark contrast between the rich and the homeless is troubling to me.