S.O. Close to Homeless: Part Ten

Medford, Ore. — NBC5 News is partnering with Access to start a community discussion, and bring you an in-depth look into the lives of people who are homeless, have been homeless, or who are very close to it.

In week ten, we’re meeting Brendon Kinzel. He works at the Family Nurturing Center, helping parents navigate through child welfare, their personal struggles, and the process of getting their children back.

He says it’s a battle he’s familiar with, and because of his own experience, he can now help others.

“I was involved with drugs and crime, since I was 12,” Kinzel said.

Kinzel grew up in the ’90’s, in San Bernardino, California.

“There was a lot of trauma, and stuff in my household,” Kinzel said. “And so I turned to drugs to take that away, and I felt accepted, you know, because I wasn’t just using, I was selling also, and so I felt like I was needed by people.”

That acceptance came with a price– years of his life. Kinzel spent 19 months in prison for burglary, and an estimated four years in county jails for lesser crimes.

From his teens to his twenties, the drugs and criminal behavior kept him, and eventually his young family, running from the law for years. Kinzel says that’s what brought them to Southern Oregon.

“We were driving back and forth from Brookings to Roseburg, Medford, Grants Pass, and stopping the whole way there and shoplifting and returning it,” Kinzel said. “We finally got caught in target here in Medford in 2010, and we had our daughter with us, and we had drugs in the car.”

Over the next couple of years, Kinzel and his wife sought treatment, but still struggled with addiction.

“We had two child welfare cases, the last one, our kids were gone for six months,” Kinzel said.

That was the couple’s final wake up call, Kinzel recounted. After going through family court and OnTrack programs, they were all reunited, and learning to lead a different lifestyle.

“I didn’t know how to use a washing machine, I didn’t know how to pay my bills, I didn’t know how to grocery shop,” Kinzel said.

Kinzel worked at Elmer’s for a couple years, and though he enjoyed the experience, it wasn’t the job he envisioned.

“I knew that I wanted to do something where I was helping other, other addicts,” Kinzel said.

Through his own child welfare worker, Kinzel learned about a job a the Family Nurturing Center, in their Parent Mentor program; Helping others through the process of losing, and getting back their children.

Kinzel says he left nothing out of his lengthy interview.

“The next day, I came in, they told me, ‘we’ll call you the next, we’ll call you tomorrow,’ and I was so impatient, and  I came in here, and was like, ‘I’m sorry, I just have to know,'” Kinzel said. “They said, ‘We want to offer you this job,’ and I cried. I had never come into a place by myself and got a job on my own, and it was really empowering for me.”

Now, Kinzel works to help empower others, guiding them in their efforts to turn their lives around, and make the same choices he did  for a better future.

“The path that I was going down, things could have been a lot worse,” Kinzel said. “I don’t feel like I would be in this position today, where I get to give back, and help other people that are in the same shoes that I once was, if I hadn’t of gone through those experiences.”

The Family Nurturing Center offers a number of programs for people working through homelessness and other obstacles. For more information on the organization, and other local resources, visit soclosetohomeless.org.

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