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Matthew Quinn of Las Vegas Rescue Mission Cooks For A Cause
Matthew Quinn of Las Vegas Rescue Mission Cooks For A Cause

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AIR DATE: November 22, 2012

Charities survive in part due to the efforts of workers who are willing to forgo a hefty salary for the deeper satisfaction that comes from working for a cause.

Some are closer to the cause than others. As the kitchen manager of Las Vegas rescue mission, Matthew Quinn made the transformation from needing help to giving it, from living on the streets to providing food and counsel to the homeless. 

Quinn knows that the people he serves at the mission come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Nothing in his own past indicated that he would end up homeless.

“I never in my entire life saw myself living on a street. My family was very well off. I didn’t even ask them for help when I ended up on the street,” says Quinn.

He had been a successful chef before an addiction to drugs and alcohol eventually led to homelessness, and a deep sense of desperation.

“The summers felt so hot, I couldn’t breathe outside,” says Quinn. “It got harder because of my looks; I let my looks go … I was not the type of person to go into a shelter. I would just fall asleep on the sidewalk, wherever I fell. I would eat out of the dumpster.”

Quinn would go as long as six months without a shower. He’d take a shower when he went to jail, after he’d been arrested for a charge like jaywalking. Once he got arrested for having a ripped shirt.  

He got money to pay for drugs and alcohol by panhandling, which he says was profitable – he made between $300-500 a day.

“I didn’t even need a sign,” says Quinn.  “I looked so bad when I went to sleep, I would sleep next to the Bellagio,  two things would happen - either I could go to jail, or I could wake up with  a 20 or 100 dollar bill in my hand.”

Quinn became suicidal. “I thought about how great it would be to not wake up the next day.”

He lay on the sidewalk of Treasure Island, hopeless and lonely, and started to cry.

“I asked God for help for the first time in my life.”  

Quinn got up on his feet and started walking, unsure of his destination. He went to UMC and several other care facilities before doctors suggested a halfway house. But he’d been down that route before. He knew he needed long-term help.  

Someone suggested the Las Vegas Rescue Mission. At the end of his rehab program they asked him to stay on as a chef. He accepted.

Quinn could go back to working at a chic kitchen and make more money. But his experience being homeless has forever changed his priorities.

“I never knew what it was to feel that need before in my life before I was homeless, to actually need something, like life or death need,” says Quinn. “And I thought about all the people I met on the street, and everything I’ve gone through on the street. I was thinking about all the hardships and everything that goes on with folks, and I’m thinking I’m going to die someday. And when I die, if I go to work at high-end places, all I’m going to have is all this money left behind. But when I do this, this is what makes a difference to me.”

 

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    COMMENTS:
    It was a long road for Matthew and all of us over the years. We are all very proud of him. God Bless,mom,dad and everyone
    Deborah QuinnNov 25, 2012 11:58:42 AM
    I am very proud of you Matthew. I think what you are doing is very important and if there were not people like you the world would be a very sad place.I know where you came from and all you have been thru--and to pull yourself up like you did is amazing and a God send. A very proud Uncle God Bless you, Matthew
    Larry PatakiNov 24, 2012 14:41:04 PM
    Matthew walk away from us and ended a loving family life. I am happy that he is doing well and working for the Lord. Quinn has made some changes in his life where he is comminucatimg with his boys now. May the Good Lord keep him safe and happy.
    KeishaNov 23, 2012 21:11:58 PM
    Another great group I just discovered through working with the local Las Vegas Occupiers, is FOOD NOT BOMBS, which provides vegetarian food for the homeless every Sunday in Baker Park, downtown. I believe this is an organization that has been around for many years, and has branches all over the country. I distributed some art blankets in the park on Veterans Day, with the help of Occupy LV and Food Not Bombs.
    Diane BushNov 20, 2012 10:17:09 AM
    Hi Louis, You may remember me. I did an interview with you about a your ago. My son and I were doing better. Got into our own place. However due to a sudden completely unexpected job loss we are about to be evicted and are hoping to find transitional housing. The crazy thing is I'm totally employable, ready and eager to work. I don't drink or use drugs. There are constraints related to parenting a special needs child but I'm talented and experienced. I'm stuck in a pattern I can't seem to find a way out of but not for lack trying.
    TroyNov 20, 2012 10:00:17 AM
    I am a manager in the field of providing services for developmentally disabled adults. The pay rate is notoriously low (often minimum wage) & many of my staff work two jobs to support their families. I usually volunteer to work holidays so that my staff have the opportunity to enjoy the holiday with their families. I also thus gain the opportunity to ensure that the individuals we serve who do not have family involvement receive my personal assurance of a pleasant & joyful holiday.
    Kim HarperNov 20, 2012 09:37:27 AM
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