Will Groza was a Downtown Streets Team member before we hired him to be the Operations Manager of The Showers program. One of our goals at Downtown Streets Team is to help Team members find jobs. It’s a great success to be able to hire our own.
I landed in Marin about six and a half years ago and I was homeless. I ended up at New Beginnings Center run by Homeward Bound. They provide shelter, job training and work experience training. I applied for, and attended, the Fresh Starts Culinary Academy. Right off the bat, the head chef gave me a task to do and they were very impressed with me once I completed it. As a result, they hired me even before I finished culinary school.
“The showers mean everything to me. It’s what I’m passionate about. All I want to do is go to bed so I can wake up every morning to come do this.”
I spent five years working at New Beginnings with various chefs. I had my own business, I made all of the soups and sandwiches for the Buckelew program. I was also enrolled in the Palm Court Housing Program through Homeward Bound. Unfortunately, the chefs that I worked with left New Beginnings, and the new head chef eliminated my position, which really sent me in a downward spiral.
Joining the Team
About a year and a half later, I got getting a new roommate who happened to be a Team Member with Downtown Streets Team. He suggested I come down and check out the program so that’s how I got to Downtown Streets Team (DST). I originally came here to hang out, but after going out and cleaning the streets, I realized I really enjoyed it. I was promoted to a green shirt, which meant I had responsibility for a work team. People would come to me to talk and I would try my best to be truthful with them and help them.
DST helped me when I was in the lowest point of my life, having lost four people that were very close to me. DST brought me out of despair and total depression. It was hard for me to get up and get a shower until I came here. Everyone here is so positive, you cannot be depressed here. If you are willing to put your time into the program, good things are going to happen. You just have to believe and pray.
The Showers Program
One day at the end of one of my shifts, a big semi truck showed up carrying the Mobile Showers trailers and I couldn’t keep my hands off of them. It felt good when Karen said she was happy I applied for the Operations Manager position. I had a hard life and I know what it’s like to be dirty and not be able to get clean, and feel like there isn’t anybody around that can help. That’s everything that the showers do; it really makes you feel good. We are working on outreach to get more people aware of the shower program to make them feel better.
The showers mean everything to me. It’s what I’m passionate about. All I want to do is go to bed so I can wake up every morning to come do this. It’s been a challenge, we have gone through a lot of trials and tribulations as we ramp up the program, but I’ve been able to stay positive and get through it. Everyone has my back and it really helps me out.
I’m so excited that the showers are growing. Everyone that has come to use the showers has been positive. This is what any community needs. Every community should be thinking about how to address the homelessness issue and how to help get people back on their feet. If DST can help get me back on my feet and employed then anybody could do it. People are very depressed when they are homeless and being able to give them a warm shower can really change their day. This is what I want to be doing, doing this job makes me incredibly happy. The enjoyment I get out of doing this job is unreal.