‘She’s the real reason I am taking these steps.’ Father’s love for daughter motivates move out of homelessness

It’s an ordinary house on an ordinary street in a neighborhood that could be anywhere, but the journey Clinton Lee and his daughter Serena took to get into that Sacramento home is anything but typical.

Previous chapters in their story involve hard times, addiction and homelessness. Now, thanks in part to the City of Sacramento’s Department of Community Response, their story revolves around recovery, redemption, reunification and the bond between a father and his daughter.

“She’s really why I’m taking the steps I’m taking,” Clinton said recently. “I’m new to recovery, and I can’t say if it’s going to last. It’s a battle every day. But I want to be here as long as I can.”

Clinton’s world revolves around his daughter Serena, 20, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident many years ago and cannot live on her own.

Clinton was her caregiver, and for many years they lived in the Natomas area. He said he lost his house a couple of years ago to unpaid taxes and an unscrupulous real estate deal. He admits his addiction was also a factor.

Clinton and Serena began couch surfing with friends and living in motels when they could afford it. When the money ran out Serena went to live with relatives, and Clinton began living in his car. The daily struggle of living on the streets made it hard to consider treatment programs, he said.

But Clinton knew that he had to find a way forward for both himself and his daughter. He called 311, and self-referred to the Department of Community Response.

Hezekiah Allen, a program specialist with DCR, offered him an open space at the Miller Park Safe Ground.

“We don’t always have the right place available for the right person when they are ready to take it,” Allen said. “But in Mr. Lee’s case, we had an opening, and he recognized that he needed to take it.”

Clinton said Allen made sure he took advantage of the opportunity to get off the street.

“Hezekiah … I can’t say enough about how he accommodated me,” Clinton said. “He made it happen; he called me back, and he made it easy for me.”

Staying at Safe Ground gave Clinton a chance to regroup after constantly feeling afraid living on the streets. In just six weeks, with help from First Step Communities, which operates Safe Ground, Clinton was ready for the next step on his journey: moving into that ordinary house, which is run by Sacramento Self Help Housing.

With a stable living situation, and a lot of support, Clinton was able to have Serena come live with him again. He is in intensive treatment and counseling. He said he is determined to make it work — for himself and for his daughter.

“She’s the real reason I am taking these steps,” he said. “I had to have some place safe for my daughter to go.”

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