Success Story – Meet Perry, Graduate of Project Paycheck

PerryPerry had everything going for him—he was a Berkeley graduate who got a job after college at a mortgage company and quickly moved his way up from a trainee to manager of the company’s real estate appraisal division. But he lost it all in a year’s time when he became addicted to heroin.  
During that first year, Perry’s family didn’t realize what was going on, but when they found out they thought they could fix it by keeping Perry at their house and sending him to treatment.  He struggled to remain clean, and thought a change of scenery might help so he took his 401K money and went to Europe.

Perry’s brilliance and potential surfaced again— while in Europe he learned Swedish, got another degree in international business, taught English and was able to refrain from using heroin until the day on campus when he heard, “Where’s my bag?”  That one little sentence—only 3 words—was enough to awaken Perry’s demons.  He thought he could do it just once, but Perry realized, “wherever I go I take my problems with me.”  Although he was scared to get arrested in a foreign country that has strict rules on narcotics, Perry’s drug use escalated again. “I didn’t know how to quit and I didn’t know how to get help,” remembers Perry.  So he called his family, who hadn’t seen him in 5 years.  Twitching and sweating, Perry arrived home, going through withdrawals because he had used drugs in the bathroom at the Amsterdam airport.

Once back in the States, Perry got arrested for an outstanding traffic ticket which had turned into a warrant.  After that, he kept getting arrested for being under the influence with possession until he received a “drug diversion” option.  Unfortunately, the program wasn’t long enough for Perry. “I was still going through withdrawals when they released me,” recalls Perry.  “I wandered the streets looking for some more…”

Perry didn’t have to look very long.  He found the high he craved, and only 45 minutes later, Perry was arrested again.  He told the police officer, “I couldn’t help it…”

Perry fired his public defender and started negotiating himself.  He wrote a letter requesting to go to treatment, and asked to do community service.   He was at a rehabilitation center in San Francisco for six months.    He then stayed with his mom, but got high again… He went to sober living but was kicked out after a month.  He resorted to hanging out on the streets. It got so bad that his family stopped taking his calls.

Perry reached his lowest point when he was homeless, addicted and broke.  “Everyone had given up on me and I had almost given up on me,” claims Perry, who reached out one last time to his dad and asked for help.  Although Perry was living in his hometown of San Francisco and was supposed to go to another treatment facility there, Perry did some research and found the Project Paycheck program at the Weingart Center Association in Los Angeles.

Perry had no where to live, his family would no longer take him in, and he had no money.  “Project Paycheck took me in with no resources except my potential.”  Arriving in Los Angeles’ gritty Skid Row at 2 am was scary for the Berkeley graduate, but coming to the Weingart Center turned out to be the decision that changed Perry’s life.

Perry was finally ready, really ready, to change his behavior and give his life a chance, but he credits Project Paycheck and the Weingart Center with making it possible.   “I was ready, but the reason that Project Paycheck was so critical is that most people can make it through a treatment program, but what happens after isn’t always addressed,” says Perry, who not only had to deal with maintaining his sobriety and the reasons he started using drugs but he also had two outstanding warrants, bad credit, legal problems and a $30,000 IRS debt.  That’s overwhelming for anyone, especially an addict.

With the guidance and assistance of his Project Paycheck case managers, Perry asked the IRS to forgive his late fees and got his tax bill down to a more manageable $7,000.  He got a job and saved $10,000. Just 11 months after coming to the Weingart Center, Perry graduated from his program, got a car, moved into his own apartment, cleaned up the mess his life had become and started fresh.

Today, after a ten-year journey of addiction with bouts of homelessness, and several stints in treatment facilities, Perry has been clean for ten years.  His credit score is 750. He married a teacher for special needs children three years ago.  They bought a house and have a rental property.  He has his own business.  Plus, Perry and his wife are adopting an 11-year old boy who was in foster care for many years. 
“I was given one last chance,” says Perry.  “The Weingart Center gave me that complete transition— from treatment to my own place…and now, everything about my life is going great.”

Click here to donate to Project Paycheck.

The Weingart Center for the Homeless provides comprehensive human services to homeless men, women, veterans, parolees, families, HIV+ and other at-risk individuals, giving them the skills, resources, and hope they need to lead productive lives off the streets. Located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row, the Weingart Center for the Homeless is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that breaks the cycle of homelessness and poverty.

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