“I never thought this would ever happen to me until it actually happened,” Ricardo said.

Ricardo has been experiencing homelessness on and off since 2009. It was not addiction that led to his homelessness, rather the effects of loss, grief and depression that caused him to live on the streets and in shelters.

As a child, Ricardo went back and forth between living with his mother and his grandparents but considers his grandfather the person who raised him. In 2002, Ricardo left his home of Sacramento, California to visit Colorado and has not left since.

Ricardo was working for a security company, but in 2008, his life took a turn when he and his wife divorced. He lost his job in security but later found temporary work in warehouses and in construction.

Faces of the Mission: Ricardo’s Story

“2011 was a rough year for me…”

“After my divorce, I didn’t know how to handle it, so I kind of broke down,” Ricardo said. “Eventually, I met a nice woman.”

As if that was not enough change to cope with, the year 2011 brought even more grief for Ricardo.

“What brought me to actually experience homelessness is when I lost my fiancé to pneumonia and a seizure,” Ricardo said. “Her mother had passed away, and then she passed away four months later. Then five or six months later, my brother-in-law passed away. So 2011 was a rough year for me.”

That is when Ricardo found himself falling into a deeper depression. Even though his friends would tell him he was lucky he did not involve himself in drugs and alcohol, he felt uncertain on how to handle all the loss.

COVID-19 Brought Ricardo Back to the Mission

Ricardo has been coming to Denver Rescue Mission on and off since 2009, but he recently started staying in the shelters more frequently, especially because of the unpredictability of the pandemic. He was working at a casino when the virus first started and lost his job as a result. Ricardo was no longer be able to afford rent, which brought him back to the Mission.

He was working at a casino when the virus first started and lost his job… no longer able to afford rent, he came to the Mission.

Ricardo stayed at the National Western Complex for a few months, where the Mission operated a temporary 24/7 shelter when the virus first hit Denver. He felt thankful for the sacrifices the Mission was making for him and others.

“With our different backgrounds, different attitudes, how we treat each other, and how we treat other people, [the Mission staff] come here and become peacemakers,” Ricardo said. “Not only are they dealing with us and possibly getting the virus, but they are taking it home to their families, so they are playing a big risk.”

“Without [the Mission], I’d be on the streets barely surviving…

Ricardo is grateful to the Mission for helping him in more ways than one—from offering shelter and meals to providing an opportunity for him to get vaccinated.

“Without [the Mission], I’d be on the streets barely surviving,” Ricardo said. “I was telling the other guys that we take a lot of things for granted, because [the Mission staff] don’t have to be here. They don’t have to help us, serve us, feed us, [and] house us, yet they do it anyway.”

Now, Ricardo is staying at 48th Avenue Center and can continue working on his goal to find stability. He is trying to stay positive as he looks for work and feels hopeful that he will be able to find a job soon.

“Having the vaccine opens quite a few doors,” Ricardo said. “For a while, I was putting out applications, but they were asking if I have had the vaccine. Now, I can actually get a job.”

“Having the vaccine opens quite a few doors… Now, I can actually get a job.”

Doing the Hard Work for a New Life

Not only that, Ricardo feels hopeful that he will get more opportunities to visit his 14-year-old son. Ricardo has two sons, the oldest is 21 and lives in Sacramento and the youngest lives in Denver. He has never met his eldest son but hopes that one day he will be able to. He wants to be a good role model for them and become a stronger and better father.

With the motivation to be a good father, Ricardo is on his way to getting himself back where he used to be. He recently joined church groups to help him deal with his loss and grief. He started watching motivational videos when his depression deprived him of energy and hope. Ricardo is trying to do the hard work to overcome life’s difficulties.

“I keep telling myself that to get stability, I have to make it happen,” he said. “No one is going to do it for me. The case [managers] give us direction, but it is up to us to do the work.”

Written by Linneya Gardner, Content and Photography Intern