It has been estimated that around 185,000 people a year are affected by homelessness in England alone. For many of those affected, it is a situation that is extremely difficult to escape. Eight-six percent of homeless people report suffering some kind of mental health disorder and the homeless die 30 years younger than average.
Thirteen years ago, American man Khalil Rafati was homeless and addicted to heroin. Living in Los Angeles’ notorious Skid Row, he weighed just 106 pounds and was covered in ulcers.
However, his inspirational story – now chronicled in his book, I Forgot to Die – shows how he managed to turn his life around to become the owner of the juice bar chain SunLife Organics.
Having moved to Los Angeles to run a business selling cars in the 1990s, Rafati’s life took a turn for the worse after he began dealing drugs, eventually leading him to try heroin. From there he became addicted to the class-A drug.
Rafati nearly died in 2001 when he intentionally overdosed on heroin at a house party in Malibu and two years later he had served a stint in Los Angeles County Jail and was living on the streets.
“I reached the bottoms of all bottoms,” he said. “There was no more digging left to do, all of my shovels were broken. I was done.”
However, in this lowest of ebbs, Rabat became dedicated to sobriety and getting his life in a better place.
After going sober, he founded Riviera Recovery, a transitional living facility for drug addicts and alcoholics, but the moment that really changed things around was when a friend introduced him to ‘juicing and superfoods’.
He began making his own smoothies and selling them to his patients.
“It was meant to rejuvenate and strengthen the patients,” he told The New York Times. “And give them some much-needed strength.
“Lethargy in sobriety is pretty brutal, especially if you’re coming off a long run with hard-core drugs.”
But his smoothies didn’t just go down well with his patients, they were so delicious that residents from around Malibu began buying them.
“So many outsiders came to Riviera Recovery just to enjoy one of my smoothies,” he said. “It even became a bit embarrassing since many of these people were not part of the Riviera Recovery programme.”
He decided to open his first juice bar, SunLife Organics, and it has now spread, becoming a chain across six different locations in Los Angeles.
From living on the streets, Rafati is now a millionaire thanks to the chain. But he has never forgotten his past and hires people to work in the stores who need the kind of help he was searching for 13 years ago.
“Right from the start he was trying to better my life,” said Cache Coelho, who was addicted to OxyCotin before he moved to Los Angeles. “He pushes us very hard in a father-like sense.”
Rafati’s mission for his first stores is simple, to ‘love, heal and inspire’. So please help him on his mission by SHARING this article with your family and friends. You never know who you might be helping.