Hope for the Future: Mario’s Story
By Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor
In the heart of Imperial County, Mario’s life took a dark turn when he became a victim of identity theft, thrusting him into a relentless spiral that led to homelessness. Lost and scared for his future, he found himself with nowhere to go save the unforgiving streets.
“Us homeless have like a label on us, and a lot of places won’t let you go in, or they will make a comment or they’ll… just flat-out throw you out,” Mario shared, reflecting on the stigma attached to his situation. “Not having a direction of where to go… to ask for help is really hard. There are a lot of people out there that they don’t have direction.”
In the harsh reality of 2022, the Imperial County Continuum of Care Point-In-Time count reported a staggering 1,057 unhoused individuals, with the county experiencing twice the state average rate of homelessness.
“I was homeless, a victim of identity theft, so I had no funds and no clothes. I was really needing the help, where am I going to sleep? What am I going to drink at night? Even thinking about using the bathroom, or getting a glass of water,” Mario shared, his voice heavy with the weight of his experiences. “I’ve been robbed before, I’ve been beaten up before, and to sit there and watch people just disintegrate, brings me to tears.”
Yet, amid the darkness, a glimmer of hope emerged. Mario found refuge at the Day Center, a haven where the homeless could find nourishment for the body and soul.
“I try to be positive; I know I believe in God, and I believe God puts you where you need to be,” Mario expressed, his gratitude evident. “Finding the help, you know, somebody that can take you in and guide you, has been a blessing.”
With the support of a dedicated case worker, Mario navigated the challenges of homelessness, one step at a time. “My case worker would ask me, ‘What can I do to help?’ Every day I’d have something different to look for, and she would highlight the route for me and give me the address,” Mario recounted, his journey marked by the kindness of those willing to lend a hand.
“My next step is going back to get my associate in computer science,” Mario declared, optimism ringing in his voice. “I feel good that I am here, talking about it because we need more funding; yes need more people like Catholic Charities to really go out there and help people.”
In the face of adversity, Mario emerged with resilience, a testament to the transformative power of support and compassion. “I’ve never been judged here,” he emphasized. “This Catholic Charities here is trying to help the community, trying to be positive, and I know they are limited. I’ve taken it upon myself to try and pass on, to get the message out there that there is help at the Day Center. I’m very grateful.”