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Finding wealth: Man lost job, home but has found fulfillment helping others

Posted: December 14, 2009 10:09 p.m.
Updated: December 15, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Durrer arranges one of the cots in the men's dormitory.

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Tim Durrer used to make $100,000 a year. He owned a nice house in Acton, several cars and even a boat.

The father of four was comfortable. He hardly seemed destined for homelessness.

But then came 2001.

He watched his daughter, just 19 days old, be taken off of life support. She had cerebral palsy.

A couple of years later, he lost his job.

His longtime relationship fell apart, tearing at his emotions and finances.

In 2004, he spent his first Christmas alone.

"That's when it really started," said the 41-year-old Stevenson Ranch resident, who still wears a black band on his finger in memory of the child he lost.

For two-and-a-half years, Durrer found himself sleeping where he could. That often meant finding shelter outside commercial buildings or in unfinished houses. Some nights he would sleep under a bridge or by a wash.

Finding a meal and getting around the growing Santa Clarita Valley to find work became a relentless, daily struggle.

"You feel like there's no hope," he said.

A new beginning
Durrer's life changed three years ago when he heard about the Santa Clarita Valley Emergency Winter Shelter. For the last two weeks of 2006, he spent his nights in the shelter.

"I was treated like a normal person," he said. "They never made me feel like I was an outcast."

Durrer worked with Executive Director Tim Davis and the shelter's support team to find work and hope.

"If people see that you're trying, people will help," he said.

Davis has watched Durrer gain more confidence since turning to the shelter.

"(Things are) getting bigger and better every day," he said.

Without the shelter, Durrer said his life would have been much worse.

"My whole life is turned around because of the shelter," he said.

Staying at the shelter for more than 100 nights allowed Durrer to build friendships with other homeless people. Those relationships gave Durrer another way of finding hope.

"I met so many different people that didn't stereotype me," he said, sitting in the shelter's dining room.

Giving a voice
His journey led to a new outlook on life.

"The one thing I didn't have was the meaning of life," he said.

That is, he was materialistic and didn't focus as much on the people in his life before.

He now works at Six Flags Magic Mountain, lives in Stevenson Ranch and serves as a board member for the Santa Clarita Community Development Corporation, the nonprofit organization that oversees the SCV Emergency Winter Shelter.

His hope is to give the homeless people of the Santa Clarita Valley a voice.

One of Durrer's goals is to see a year-round shelter, rather than the current seasonal shelter that operates from Dec. 1 through March 15, as it would allow shelter staff to better help their clients.

"It does work. It does provide hope," he said.

Durrer is also the shelter manager for the homeless shelter in Sylmar and has begun speaking at local churches to share his story and overcome the obstacles homeless people face.

He said: "I don't ever want to lose sight of where I came from."

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