VISTA, Calif. — News 8 is looking back on the COVID-19 pandemic one year later. In this Zevely Zone, I circled back with a single mother making a big difference in the North County. Vanessa Graziano started hand delivering hot meals to the homeless last March. "Have a good day, okay?" said Vanessa during our ride along with her. The homeless population has been one of the hardest hit throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.
Vanessa started the Oceanside Homeless Resource because with every meal she passed out she remembers her own past. "I have a story I absolutely have a story," said Vanessa. A few years ago, Vanessa lived in her car, battled addiction, and lost her three children but even then, she believed. "There is always a little light right? If you can just bring it, it opens hearts," said Vanessa.
Since our original story aired, Vanessa has served nearly 20,000 meals to the homeless and now pays for 20 hotel rooms nightly to get people off the streets. The Oceanside Homeless Resource is also renting out a house for more people in Vista. The non-profit program is privately funded which means Vanessa must come up with six thousand dollars a week to pull it all off.
"What we are doing is bringing in hope and love and self-worth," said Vanessa with tears in her eyes. Vanessa has been clean from drug use for six years. She now pays it forward to people like Cassie Phillips. "I'm an addict I have three kids," said Cassie. She was literally living in a tunnel when Vanessa showed her the light on the other side. "Vanessa is an angel to me. I was at a very dark place in my life, and she has given me so much hope," said Cassie.
The home in Vista is transitional housing where residents are drug tested as they prepare to get jobs and reinvent their lives. "Staying sober on the streets is almost impossible," said Crystal Griffith who needed a place to live her husband. "We were in our car trying to find places to crash," said Crystal.
As the home's residents sat down for a counseling session, we spotted a familiar face from our story one year ago. Andrea Andersen was living in a tent when Vanessa found her. "That's God's love right there, that's God's love," said Andrea at the time while receiving a hot meal.
"Andrea, you look great, thank you!" I said. She replied, "It's nice when you can have a shower every day. It's amazing soap and hot water, ha, ha." Vanessa not only gave Andrea a home but took in Andrea's two dogs. "She is an extraordinary woman and I believe that God is really living in her to do the things she does for people," said Andrea.
Because of Vanessa 37 people every night have a bed to sleep in. "It's amazing how much she does for one woman," said Cassie. Then Andrea said, "She has gone the extra mile, she really has."
Vanessa no longer lives in her car. She got her children back and wants to help others get back on their feet too. "It's important, it's important," said Vanessa. "It's about love right?"
If you'd like to learn more information about the Oceanside Homeless Resource or make a donation to help the program, click here.