In her time at the Santa Ana Day Reporting Center, participant Nicole Valdez has not only made a 180-degree turnaround in her sobriety, but parlayed her interest in helping others into an actual business.
Along with her husband Gilbert Valdez, Ms. Valdez founded Dirt Poor Unlimited, a community outreach organization that connects individuals with local resources, especially those who are in recovery from addiction or are experiencing domestic violence, as Ms. Valdez has.
“Our journey has brought us past life’s crossroads and to where we now can give back to the world,” the DPU website reads. “Dirt Poor is where we came from: the bottom up, without anything but our faith, with determination that all is possible.”
The organization’s work involves talking to people on the streets and wherever the couple goes, directing those in need to local resources for substance abuse support meetings, detox/rehab, treatment centers, sober living facilities, employment and educational resources, and churches.
The couple also sells custom designed T-shirts with the DPU logo at pop-up events, donating a portion of each sale to charities related to homelessness, drug addiction treatment, and children affected by domestic and gang violence.
“We try to help every person we encounter who is struggling,” said Ms. Valdez, who started at the DRC program last fall. “That’s what helped us, giving back. Because we were homeless at one time and weren’t allowed to stay together at a shelter, we also wanted to establish sober living facilities.”
The couple now runs a sober living home for couples in Mission Viejo. In addition, Ms. Valdez will soon be promoted to DRC Phase 3, is working full time and, along with her husband, is a student at the HealthStaff Training institute in Tustin for drug and alcohol counseling.
“I’d been at the DRC once before, but I wasn’t ready for sobriety then,” she said. “Now I’m completely sober — no more lies.”
“My wife being at the DRC is what motivated not only her but me to get right and clean,” added Mr. Valdez.
Recently, the Valdezes attended the Orange County Women’s Freedom Festival, where they had the chance to promote the DPU mission to hundreds of people. As a result of that event, they received an invitation to serve as guest speakers at another event in Riverside.
“I’m very proud of how far Ms. Valdez has come,” said her Case Manager, Ms. Ochoa. “I enjoy seeing her passion and confidence grow from week to week. She believes in herself and the work she is doing. She wants to be able to give back to her community and continue empowering other women to be the best version of themselves.”
Established in 2013, the Santa Ana Day Reporting Center is run by GEO Reentry Services on behalf of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Parolees referred to the center receive evidence-based treatment to reduce recidivism, including cognitive behavioral therapy, life skills training, case management, workforce development and community connections to local resources. The center is located at 1701 N Main Street in Santa Ana.