Success Stories

Tyler De Los Reyes:

Leadership Award

No one understands homelessness like someone who has been there.

Tyler De Los Reyes has been there, and now he’s a living example of what the possibilities are for homeless youth still struggling on the streets of San Diego.

Today, the 26-year-old supervises more than 100 security guards in his position as a manager for Elite Security, who provides security at Padres and Chargers games and other large events. He was one of 11 event employees named All-Star of the Month (employee of the month) in 2014 by the Padres in front of 25,000 fans.

He’s come a long way since his days as a teenager sleeping underneath the Imperial Beach Pier, and he says the help he got from Doors of Change made all the difference.

“I’m humbled. I appreciate it very much,” he told U-T San Diego. “But none of this would have happened without Photocharity and Storefront.”

In 2006, 16-year-old Tyler came to San Diego Youth Services’ Storefront shelter, where he attended the music program being offered by Doors of Change. His life changed forever. The music lessons, the caring,the support … it all meant so much to Tyler that even after he no longer lived at the shelter he returned each week to volunteer at the music program for 6 months. Getting there was a 2-hour trip by bus and trolley.

Doors of Change has continued to mentor Tyler ever since, and Tyler has continued to mentor homeless youth. He has also participated in numerous Doors of Change fundraising events as a speaker, telling his inspiring story. Early on, one Doors of Change Angel was so moved by his story he donated his truck to Tyler. When Tyler wanted to apply for employment in the security field, Doors of Change paid for his guard card, a $500 expense that would have been all but impossible for Tyler to afford.

Tyler’s level of success now is what all homeless youth can look forward to!Tyler continues to “pay it forward,” serving as a Doors of Change Angel in his remarkable way. With his help, Doors of Change raised $300,000 over the last 9 years to open “Doors of Change,” a long-term safe housing and self-sufficiency program for 18- to 24-year-old homeless male youth. He recently spent 90 minutes with the youth currently participating in the “Doors of Change” program, delivering his message of what is possible with hope and hard work. He invited these youth to call him anytime they want to talk.

In creating the Tyler De Los Reyes Leadership Award, Doors of Change will recognize one youth each year – beginning with Tyler — who leads by example and is a role model for other homeless youth to follow. Tyler and other youth who solve their homelessness will show us all what is possible!


Tyler16 Tyler24



To see how much these youth have changed, use your mouse to slide over the pictures.

Why were you homeless?

My mom had a drug problem and she couldn’t keep money for rent so we lost our place to stay when I was 12 and slept under the pier in Imperial Beach till I was 16 when I found the Shelter.

Looking back, how have the Doors of Change’s programs affected your life?

They helped me get on my feet. The music program helped me cope with me being in the shelter. Now I know how to play guitar and piano.

Why is the “Doors of Change” program for 18- to 24-year-olds so vital?

Now that I’m 26 I still keep meeting young adults my age without schooling or a job. A place that would help them learn something, to live a life, that would mean so much.

What are you doing now? Where do you live?

Ever since Doors of Change got me my guard card and a Doors of Change donor gave me my first car 9 years ago, I have been working for Elite Security. I just got a large promotion. I am “Assistant Event Manager of Security” for Elite Show Services at the Sports Arena. I manage over 100 security guards. I am the youngest Security Manager at Elite Security of over 200 employees.

I have been living in apartments for the past 9 years.  Currently I live in Imperial Beach.

How has Doors of Change helped you since you left SDYS Storefront over 9 years ago?

You instilled confidence in me 9 years ago and it has lasted. You paid for my guard card, which was huge. Without this card, I would never be where I am now.  Thru you, your donor gave me my first car (truck). I was able to go to work a lot easier with this. You helped me with my people skills so much.  My ability to talk in front of people, talk to people, & interact with people has helped me with my job now. Before Doors of Change I would never go up to a stranger and talk to them. Because of Doors of Change I am now comfortable to do this and I am not shy to talk with people.  I go up now and greet them and make them feel welcome. That has helped me in my professional & personal life.  Doors of Change has meant “Change” in my life. Thinking I was always going to be at the lowest tier of society. Now I am working my way up to the top tier.

Why should people donate to Doors of Change?

People should donate because Doors of Change is not one that tells you “what we’re going to do” then wait to see how were going to spend the money. (Doors of Change) goes straight to the kids and if you don’t believe me, come talk to me and I’ll tell you in person.


Why were you homeless?

I ran away from home when I was 12 because I was being abused by my stepfather. He abused me physically, emotionally and mentally, playing torture games with me on a daily basis. I packed a backpack with clothes and a toothbrush, and left in the middle of the night while he was asleep. My mother had psychological problems that prevented her from caring for me properly. I lived with friends until I was 15, and transitioned to the streets until I was 17. I gave my mother another chance, and ended up running away again.

Looking back, how have Doors of Change’s programs affected your life?

The Doors of Change programs are essential – they give us a way to express our emotions, to heal, to learn, and to grow. Art and music were the most important form of therapy for me. I was able to express my pain, and grow into a happier adult. ILS and case management gives us the support we need to become functioning, healthy adults. ILS teaches you everything you need to transition into adulthood, like getting a job or an apartment. Having a case manager is like having a personal friend that’s always looking out for your best interests, and helping you every step of the way.

Why is the Doors of Change program so vital?

There is currently no option for people my age that need a home. There are countless numbers of youth in this age group that cannot get into shelters, and desperately need that help to get their lives on track. Without the Doors of Change, these young adults may get stuck doing things out of desperation, like using/selling drugs, or selling their bodies to survive. No one should have to resort to these measures.

What are you doing now?

I have a car, which is paid for. I am going full time to City College (honor classes) and want to transfer to SDSU to major in biology. Presently I am getting mostly A’s.

How has Doors of Change helped you these past 9 years after leaving SDYS Storefront Shelter?

It has provided me with a sense of community. Having a tight support group has helped me when my mom died and in finding college scholarships. They helped me get my car, which has made a big difference in my life.  They have given me an outlet to be an inspirational speaker.

Why should people donate to Doors of Change?

To raise awareness, but most importantly, to save our youth from living on the streets. We cannot help them without money to give them shelter, food, and the care needed to get back on their feet. Donors are vital to the process. We need people that care enough about youth that they are willing to share their hard-earned money to help. We need that money to also hire staff, therapists, ILS, case workers, and people to watch over and care for the youth.

Watch a video about Justine

Justinebefore Justine-after

To see how much these youth have changed, use your mouse to slide over the pictures.




To see how much these youth have changed, use your mouse to slide over the pictures.

Watch a video about Matt


Joseph-before Joseph-after

To see how much these youth have changed, use your mouse to slide over the pictures.

Homeless Youth Find Help and Hope Each Week in Ocean Beach

Trust is one of the biggest hurdles when trying to help homeless youth. Typical outreach programs require 6 to 9 months of interfacing with these youth before they will be receptive to assistance and housing. But with the extraordinary human connections we develop at our “Taking Music & Art to the Streets” (TMATS) program, we’ve placed youth in shelter and long-term housing in as little as four weeks!


In just over two years, there have been more than 1,700 youth visits to TMATS. Thanks to our generous donors and many volunteers, these homeless youth trust us quickly because we help them in so many ways:


  • Youth are encouraged to help themselves by coming to weekly classes. If they come to 6 classes, they earn an instrument of their choice or art supplies. To date, 149 youth have earned instruments. Many are able to earn money by playing on the streets. By earning this income rather than asking for handouts, their self-esteem is raised.
  • Dr. Dana Tankell provides free chiropractic care to decrease back pain that results from sleeping on the ground.
  • A homemade dinner is provided, as well as a to-go bag of food.
  • Sleeping bags, blankets, clothes, shoes, and backpacks are provided each week to those who need them.
  • A volunteer provides haircuts.
  • Information is provided each week for those youth who would like to get ID’s, health insurance, or food stamps, and help with resume-writing and job-hunting is also available.
  • Youth are encouraged to seek a place in our long-term self-sufficiency program.

The ongoing comprehensive care we provide through our weekly TMATS connections helps homeless youth build self-esteem, recover from depression, and find hope for the future. These youth quickly see progress in themselves through their music and art lessons, and begin to see that there are good people in the world who care about them and who can be trusted to help them find a successful future.



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