From struggle to success; one man's story of getting off the streets
July 23, 2018 06:18 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Homelessness is seen as a growing crisis by many in Albuquerque, but what exactly does it take to get off the streets?
For one local man, observing the city's homeless reminds him of how far he's come.
"Because I remember being here and being in their shoes. It hurts, it sucks,” Gabriel Herrera said. "I mean, I literally go to different shelters and say, 'Do you have availability?' ‘No, we don't have any availability.’”
In Herrera's case, it started with the drinking. Then he turned to drugs.
"Percs, oxys, started taking those. (But) those were getting to be too expensive to afford," he said. "So I went down to heroin. Started doing heroin because it was easier, more accessible. Started doing that and it all went downhill from there."
For a year he would bounce around from shelter to shelter. If he couldn’t get into one, he says, he would sleep in the Bosque.
The only worry he had was getting arrested and trying to make sure his kids didn’t know he was homeless.
"I remember one of my earliest memories when I first met my father when I was 13, and I went to stay with him and he didn't have nowhere to stay. So we were on the streets,” Herrera said.
It was when Herrera’s kids were threatened to be taken away that he decided to turn his life around.
He began to go to treatment, took classes and aggressively searched for housing. After months he discovered he qualified for a housing voucher in Rio Rancho, through the Family Unification Program—an initiative that prioritizes helping to provide housing to those with kids.
There had been no more vouchers available in Albuquerque.
Herrera said he wishes there were more resources available for what he sees as a problem that's only getting bigger in the Duke City.
“I see it more and more every day," he said. "I mean, there's somebody panhandling on every corner and it didn't used to be like that. You would see them here and there, but now it's basically all the major intersections."
Herrera is now sober, has a steady job and is no longer receiving government money. He said he’s been able to pay his own rent for months.
Having the means to provide his kids with a better life than he had growing up has been his motivation to get to this point.
“I can lay my head down at night and know that they are cared for," Herrera said, "and I've done everything in my power to make sure that's going to stay that way."
Updated: July 23, 2018 06:18 AM
Created: July 22, 2018 10:04 PM
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