Riches to rags and back free presentation at Vallejo’s Touro University

By: Rachel Raskin-Zrihen
Vallejo Times Herald
November 1, 2016

Richard LeMieux went from the high life to homeless and back and wrote about it in a book called “Breakfast at Sally’s: One Homeless Man’s Inspirational Journey.”

Now a homeless advocate, he’s the keynote speaker for a discussion on homelessness at Vallejo’s Touro University from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10.

Understanding Homelessness Presented by Touro University California College of Education and Health Sciences will be held at the school’s Lander Auditorium, 1557 Azuar Drive, Mare Island. 

LeMieux will discuss his homeless experiences and his efforts to assist others who are homeless during this free presentation, which open to the community. A reception and book signing will follow the event.

“We will also have many local organizations present who work with the homeless in the Bay Area,” organizers said.

Sally’s is what insiders call the Salvation Army’s soup kitchen, according to information on LeMieux’s book.

“Richard LeMieux once had it all — a happy marriage, a beautiful home, cars, boats, and vacation extravaganzas,” it says, but, practically over night, he lost it all, and was destitute, estranged from his family and friends, and living out of a van with his dog, Willow. At 60. 

“And for a while, the Salvation Army (a.k.a. Sally’s) provided his only meals,” it says.

After a suicide attempt, he was hospitalized and diagnosed with depression, which was where the road back began.

“In Breakfast at Sally’s, LeMieux brings to life his experiences of being homeless, and presents his odyssey with quirky, diverse, and endearing characters that encompass the homeless people of Bremerton, Wash.,” the information says. “Composed on a secondhand manual typewriter at various locations, LeMieux provides a rare and intimate look at how the other America lives. He shows how one man, beaten down and alone, is able to reconnect, find good people, and ultimately with their help, persevere.” 

Sponsored by NorthBay Healthcare, Recology, and Shelley Berkley, Understanding Homelessness is part of the ongoing social justice series presented by Touro’s Master’s of Public Health program.

Anyone who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area has seen them — the homeless — begging for money or huddled in doorways to protect themselves from the elements, organizers said.

“Homelessness is one of the most pervasive problems in this nation, yet this has not been addressed during this presidential election season,” they said. “As Bay Area housing becomes increasingly less affordable, more people are found living on the streets without shelter. Incredibly, San Francisco ranks No. 5 in the nation in homelessness, with 772 people per 100,000 without adequate shelter. The problem extends to all surrounding Bay Area counties, including Solano.” 

During the past six months, Touro’s faculty and staff, including the Graduate School of Education, the Public Health Program, the Physician Assistant program, and the School of Nursing, decided that the focus of their service and research would be issues around poverty and homelessness.

“These dedicated educators are seeking solutions to address important social justice issues, including homelessness,” they said. “They are doing so by reaching out other agencies and individuals within Solano County who are concerned with homelessness, which has become a national embarrassment for such a wealthy nation.” 

The Understanding Homelessness presentation is this effort’s kick-off event, they said.

LeMieux, an Ohio State University-educated successful businessman, who, through a series of events, found himself living on the streets, will share his experiences and insights at the Nov. 10 event.

For information, go to tu.edu, or contact Erendira Romero at erendira.romero@tu.edu.

Contact Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824.