Mother tells of her escape from addiction and being homeless

Mar 23, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2023, 2:11 pm


FILE - Tents line a sidewalk on Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco, Saturday, April 18, 2020. California Gov. Gavin Newsom will discuss homelessness in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, March 16, 2023, to kick off a four-day policy tour in lieu of a traditional State of the State address. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Back in 2012, a homeless mother in Salt Lake City said to herself: “I’m tired of being tired.”

At the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City, Rachel Santizo joins Dave & Dujanovic to talk about her struggle with addiction, homelessness and her path out as part of Project Homeless Connect which runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 24.

The turnaround

“You started to really turn things around about 2012,” Debbie Dujanovic said. “What was that lightbulb moment, and where were you at in that moment?”

“Oh, man, where I was at. I was actually — I used to live underneath cars off North Temple. And the reason I lived underneath cars is because I remember running for my life. I was in a domestic-violence relationship, and I was trying to find somewhere to hide.” Santizo said.

She said she didn’t care if the parked cars she hid underneath started because she said she didn’t want to live anymore.

“But I didn’t have the courage to take my own life,” she said.

“And we’re grateful for that,” Debbie replied. “What pulled you out of that?”

“I got exhausted. I was just tired of being tired. And so I started looking up resources, and I found the Volunteers of America, which will also be here [as part of Project Homeless Connect at the Salt Palace].”

Homeless and addicted

“How did you become addicted?” Debbie asked.

“When I was 24 I had a hysterectomy, and they prescribed me pain pills; that’s where it began for me,” Santizo said. “I never imagined that at 12 years old that I was gonna grow up being addicted to the needle and heroin.”

She said she started to buy pain pills from a co-worker and her habit began to spiral out of control.

“And the next thing you know, you’re introduced to other people, behaviors, drugs and then I was introduced to heroin,” Santizo.

Project Homeless Connect

How does Friday’s event at the Salt Palace with Project Homeless Connect help people who are struggling with addictions and homelessness? Dave asked.

“When you come to this event, you don’t have to have an ID. You don’t have to have insurance. You don’t have to have anything at all. Just you, and you get to come as you are.

“We’re offering all resources to break down those barriers to empower someone or to just give them a little bit of hope. . . . We have over 900 volunteers to let people know in Salt Lake that they matter. That’s the magic of tomorrow,” Santizo said. 

“Thank you for sharing your story of being vulnerable and open for our listeners to hear this because I think that there’s a lot of families that just need to know that they’re not going through this alone,” Debbie said. 

Related reading:

New report shows increase in Utah children experiencing homelessness


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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