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Black History Month: Former Homeless Man Helps Others Get on Their Feet

Rev. Richard Reed founded the agency “First to Serve,” which helps homeless people get off the streets.

This South Los Angeles living facility could be mistaken for a college dormitory — long hallways, shared bedrooms and personal touches as far as the eye can see.

But, it’s actually a “transitional housing for unsheltered adults” now connected to comprehensive care by Richard Reed.

Reed founded the agency “First To Serve” 20 years ago. He’s helped thousands of men and women each year off the streets or referred by partner agencies. Reed said that people coming out of homelessness and out of prison find a home in his facility. Two clients who agreed to speak with NBC4 called Reed and First to Serve a “lighthouse in a storm.”

“I was homeless for three years because I lost my Section 8. Homeless three years,” client Bonnetta Simmons said.lls and job preparation, or face domestic violence, homelessness and they can’t care for themselves.

“I’ve lived on the street for two years in Sacramento, and I’ve seen how people are treated,” client Reba Thomas said. “The women — dealing with the domestic abuse, rape and drugs.”

Reed’s connection to homelessness began decades ago in Los Angeles.

He fell onto hard times, living in his car, because he couldn’t afford rent at a “sober living house” nearby.

“I couldn’t get myself together,” Reed said. “I used to work two to three jobs. I couldn’t make it. Just couldn’t make it. It was cold and hard to take showers. It was very complicated.”

Reed sprung into action when his pastor, LA’s legendary Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray, pushed him to launch First To Serve.

“I told him, ‘I’m homeless. I don’t have a place to stay,'” Reed said. “He changed it around and said, ‘You know what son? I have something for you.'”

Reed also became a minister and now coordinates 15 facilities, including First to Serve, where his awards fill the walls. He also is certified as a drug and alcohol counselor.

Reed strives for dignity and safety for all clients at every facility. All employees are certified and compassionate.

“I saw the need in what I went through,” Reed said. “I wanted to help another individual so if they happened to go through what I went through, I can help them get on their feet. Or, stop them from even going through what I went through.”

“I appreciate you guys. Keep up the good work,” Simmons said.

First to Serve aims to forge connections and change lives, one client at a time.

“Here, lets get back to what we used to be — upstanding citizens,” Thomas said.

Reed’s goal is to make people whole from what he knows.

“We as a people should not hate homelessness,” Reed said, “but be concerned that there’s not enough housing.”

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