OCEANSIDE — An Oceanside resident is using her personal experience of being homeless to inspire the community to assist the growing homeless population. Vanessa Graziano started Oceanside Homeless Resource in 2019 as a means to bridge the gap between the community, city and homeless.
The next event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 8, at Oceanside Sanctuary, 204 S. Freeman, and will provide area homeless with warm food, showers, haircuts, toiletry bags, clothes and blankets. Local homeless service organizations are also participating.
Graziano grew up in a loving family, the daughter of a television executive and a homemaker. She became an accomplished singer, worked for major TV networks in LA, ran her own music studio and started a band with her husband. For most of her life she was a thriving member of society. Soon after she moved her family to Oceanside in 2012, she found herself in the middle of a divorce, depressed and turning towards drugs.
“By the time I realized things were out of control it was too late,” said Graziano. For five years she struggled with depression and addiction, living at her drug dealer’s house and losing her children before permanently moving into her car. “I remember the people, angels really, who didn’t give up on me,” said Graziano of the police officers, friends and counselors who would find her on the streets to offer assistance and advice. “Addiction and homelessness is something that can happen to anyone, to anyone’s family; no one knows that better than me,” said Graziano.
After losing her house, family and self-respect, something clicked. Graziano found Serenity House, an Escondido facility for women in recovery, who agreed to take her in if she was serious about getting sober.
“I sat in my car outside the facility for a week to show them how serious I was about getting clean. I know now that I was saved for a reason,” she said.
Using her own experience, Graziano has made it her life’s purpose to “lead with light, love, empathy and compassion” to bridge the gap between the homeless population and the community. She regularly walks the streets to speak directly with area homeless.
“I have counted at least 50 homeless teenagers who urgently need assistance. We have a real opportunity with our young adults to make a difference but we need more resources for them like transitional housing.”
Currently, Oceanside has no temporary overnight shelters for homeless, although in past years they have been provided during the cold winter months. Graziano updates and solicits donations from community members through her Facebook group Oceanside Homeless Resource which has amassed nearly 300 followers in a short amount of time. She is working with the city and local organizations on long-term solutions and has called on churches to open their doors.
She has also partnered with Oceanside Sanctuary to host a monthly resource fair. “The last event had 47 volunteers and about 50 area homeless,” said Graziano. “Everyone sat down and ate breakfast together and it was a truly heartwarming sight.” For more information, to volunteer or to donate visit [email protected]