Man overcomes alcohol addiction and homelessness, finds purpose in new pilot program

MILPITAS, Calif. (KGO) -- Happiness and the Humane Society Silicon Valley, two things David Lundholm never thought he'd feel or see.

"22 months ago, I was in a motel, trying to drink myself to death," Lundholm told ABC7 News.

Lundholm battled alcohol addiction for decades. In December 2017, he entered a treatment facility in Scotts Valley.

He later faced homelessness in San Jose because of his addiction. However, Lundholm credited programs to help the unhoused and involvement with the Downtown Streets Team for turning his life around.

"Instead of wanting to end it, I want to live," he said. "And I want to give."

Most recently, Lundholm got the opportunity to volunteer for a new pilot program launched in April. It's a collaboration between the Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV) and the Downtown Streets Team.

He took team lead, supporting three other volunteers. Each received a basic needs stipend, case management and other assistance in return.

For background, the Downtown Streets Team (DST) partners with local organizations to help people experiencing homelessness and those at risk of homelessness with the opportunity to rebuild their lives through the dignity of work.

Through the DST model, people experiencing homelessness volunteer on community projects.

"We enjoyed working with him and one of his team members so much that we offered them positions much sooner than we anticipated doing," HSSV's Chief of Philanthropy and Community Development Programs, Stephanie Ladeira told ABC7 News.

Lundholm was hired as an Animal Care Technician.

"Dave is a shining example of, when you support someone by providing, whether it's home services or counseling services or job opportunities or volunteering opportunities, that they can flourish," she added.

Ladeira said the pilot program provided a win-win situation for all involved.

She explained, "As we start to rescue more animals and take in more animals each year, our workload gets bigger."

Lundholm said he cleans out all the animal pods, changes bedding and water, he does the dishes and laundry. "Whatever it takes," as he put it.

"It is a lot of hard work, but it's gratifying too," he said. "Just to work with the animals. I love coming here every day because you never know what you're going to run into."

"When you get to see someone who's been experiencing homelessness learn a new skill and feel just amazing about their contributions in saving an animal's life or even just in partnering with another human. It just makes your heart sing," Ladeira added.

"Any program out there that can help people get off the street, or help their self-esteem, it all helps," Lundholm said. "They just gotta want to do it."

Lundholm said he also manages and lives at a Sober Living Environment in the South Bay.

The pilot program is currently funded through the end of 2019. Soon, HSSV will also bring on an additional three Team Member volunteers.

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