A Santa Maria Navy veteran struggling with homelessness has found a light at the end of the tunnel.
Marcia Pili says, through optimism, hard work and a local organization she describes as a ‘godsend’, she got a second chance to succeed in her life.
“Even though I’m down and out right now, I already know when you're down there’s only one way to go,” said Pili.
It’s hard to tell by Pili’s smile, she’s going through one of the toughest times in her life.
This Santa Maria native is also Navy veteran. She was homeless only a short time ago, with barely enough money for bus fare.
“I didn’t even really have the funds to do that. I was pretty much penniless,” said Pili.
Pili enlisted in the Navy as a teenager after her mom passed away. “When I was 17, I decided to go into the service. The service was a really good experience for me. I really felt at home there. Of course, it was the Navy and I checked on board the second ship to ever accept females onboard," Pili said. "People may not say 'not that little girl', but I was hands on.”
Years after leaving the service, Pili fell upon hard times, bringing her back to the Central Coast.
She imagined what it was going to be like for her, being homeless - where she grew up. “Standing in line for food, looking for the food kitchen. I don’t know probably finding a couple of cardboard boxes for me and my dog and finding a place for cover.”
She soon discovered a local organization called 'New Beginnings', which helps struggling veterans get back on their feet.
Case manager Jamie Naylor works one-on-one with veterans. “The whole goal is housing first, that’s what we are based off of - get the veterans housed and safe, and everything else will follow.”
Naylor encourages people to not make quick judgments on those down on their luck.
"There’s mental health reasons , substance abuse, some people got beyond and couldn't get back up. There’s a variety of reasons why people get into homelessness," said Naylor.
Pili calls ‘New Beginnings’ a blessing.
“I’m not sure if I called them, or they called me, but they helped me get my home, get my medical together, and during that time - I was gifted an older car,” said Pili.
Naylor explains the organization is much more than simply locating housing opportunities. “We’re definitely advocates. We connect with landlords, we connect with community resources. and we all work together for people to give these veterans chances in housing.”
And Pili couldn't be more grateful. "New beginnings is awesome, and uh, all you people out there should know - if you want to give, give to them because they’ve helped me so much.”
To learn how you can lend a helping hand, visit New Beginnings' website.