September 16 at 3:03pm
Local veteran builds home and business with help from Interfaith
A native to Brooklyn, New York, Jemel was enlisted in the Marine Corps for four years where he served as an aviation operations specialist. After traveling around the world with the Marines, he decided to return home to take care of his mother when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In addition to the stress of helping his mother through her illness, Jemel also went through a divorce and lost custody of his daughter, causing him to spiral into depression.
“I couldn’t maintain a job, was getting sick, and lost my home,” said Jemel. “But I always tried to keep a positive outlook no matter how bad it got.”
After nearly 4 ½ years on the street, bouncing around San Diego County with only three bags to his name and working odd jobs for weeks at a time, Jemel ended up at the tent shelter in Point Loma, a place for homeless veterans to sleep during the coldest months of the year. It was there, during the last two weeks of the tent being open for the season, that Jemel met a representative from Interfaith Community Services who encouraged him to come to the Oceanside office and get placed into housing.
“I was so tired, I wasn’t sleeping, and I didn’t even know how to get to Oceanside,” said Jemel. “But I packed up my bags and made the trip. I didn’t know where I was going to sleep that night, but I felt like being there was going to get me one step closer to getting back on my feet.”
During the next few days, Jemel met with several representatives from Interfaith’s veterans department and it was then that he says his life completely changed.
“When I sat down in the meeting and they handed me over keys, I was stunned. It hadn’t hit me yet that these were keys to my own apartment,” said Jemel. “I just stared at them; that whole morning I was wondering where I was going to sleep that night, and suddenly I had my own place. It was a shock and a blessing.”
Today, Jemel is settled into his apartment in Oceanside and has begun cooking for other veteran residents in his program. Through his cooking, Jemel hopes to show veterans that healthy, affordable meals are within their reach and that eating good food can change their health, attitudes, and lifestyles. He also is eager to begin classes to get his guard card and begin working in security.
“Everything I do, I do for my daughter,” said Jemel. “I didn’t think there was anyone out there that could help me, but then Interfaith found me. I really hope more veterans will know this place exists because it truly changed my life.”