Demetrious #SuccessBells

June 5, 2017

While living out of his car, Demetrious tried to hang on to some semblance of his past. He found comfort in his art, drawing the landscape – hard streets decorated with his fellow neighbors living in various states of homelessness. Quick sketches – one of a man with wild hair sliding down the sidewalk and another of someone tightly pressed into a ball, sleeping with nothing to protect her. Each drawing he created included a written time stamp. A testament that screams – I am here, don’t forget me, and don’t look past me.

Six-feet tall and in his 50s, Demetrious was sheltered in his vehicle as he watched others prepare themselves for another night of sleeping on the streets: “I wouldn’t boast about having a car to stay in, but I was grateful.”

Demetrious had landed his first job at age 12 and stayed steadily employed for his entire life. The tumble to unemployment and homelessness was a shock – how could this be his life, he would lament as he tirelessly tried to drift into sleep.

Demetrious lost his job when his employer of 10 years went out of business. Unable to make ends meet doing odd jobs, Demetrious was forced to give up his apartment. For 60 days he resorted to sleeping in his car until a spot opened up for him at a shelter. “[At first,] I was in a state of anger. But I realized I needed to take a step forward and get assistance,” recalled Demetrious.

After hearing about Chrysalis, he arrived at our Downtown center. His determination and readiness to work made him an excellent candidate for our transitional jobs program. After his first assignment as a street sweeper in the Arts District, Demetrious was hired at The Bin, a personal storage facility available to those experiencing homelessness throughout L.A. County.

Demetrious said the experience was not only a chance to earn a paycheck but also a great opportunity to develop his customer service skills and help individuals like himself who were experiencing homelessness. He said, “Working at The Bin gave me the opportunity to be excellent. Chrysalis encourages us to be excellent, so that’s what I always strive to do.”

While working at The Bin, Demetrious continued his job search with support from his Employment Specialist. Together, they updated his resume, drafted a cover letter, and brushed up on his interview skills. He stayed persistent and maintained a positive attitude. The first victory came when his housing came through – an apartment of his own meant that he could leave the transitional housing where he was staying. It also meant he could start to work on larger mixed media art pieces. He started to feel whole. Shortly after, Demetrious landed a job.

Today, Demetrious is working with Block by Block in Santa Monica as a Maintenance Ambassador where he provides outstanding customer service to the residents and visitors of the city. He is proud to share that he has a roof over his head and the ability to pay his bills – not only on time, but sometimes even a little bit early. He grins as he says, “It’s a great feeling to have that sense of responsibility and commitment.”

In his free time, Demetrious continues to build a portfolio of artwork featuring the many individuals he has met throughout his journey. Through his art, he hopes to spread the word about homelessness by inspiring individuals who are experiencing it as well as those who are in a position to help. Some of his pieces are detailed portraits while others are faceless sketches — like the ones he did from his car, they’re a reminder that there is no one face of homelessness; hard times can fall on anyone.

Through his testimony, we hope that many more individuals learn about Chrysalis, because we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their past or present circumstances. You can ask Demetrious. Jobs really do change lives.

“My encounter with Chrysalis was a catalyst of change.”

Demetrious is featured in our 2016 Annual Report. Click here to learn more about our impact last year!

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