Everyday, Juan Castanon works with the men in The Midnight Mission Drug and Alcohol Program, helping them stay free from those things that kept them in the bondage of poverty, addiction and incarceration. “I get a chance to see people change,“ said Juan.  24 men are assigned to his case load.  He works with each client to structure a case plan that identifies their strengths, weakness, and needs. “We work together to make sure that by the time they leave TMM they have the tools to being a good father, man and self-sufficient citizen.”

“My wife often asks me why I am in such a good mood all the time” Juan confides.“ I should be dead, as many times as I have been stabbed, shot and beat up, but I’m not.”

For over 45 years, he was known as Mousey, a nickname given to him by the gang he once belonged to. Mousey spent 17 years in and out of prison, addicted to heroin and crime. He even did three years in a Mexican penitentiary for trafficking.

In 2000, he got out of prison and quickly went back to using and selling drugs. His habit had only gotten worse during his incarceration. About three months after being released he turned for help and kicked the habit. While in treatment he went to school and finished with a certificate for drug and alcohol counseling.

Juan was able to leave the life of gangs, drugs and violence behind him, but he is not far from his beginnings. Today, he owns a small family business and works at the Mission.  In his free time he works with kids from East Los Angeles (all territories), mentoring, taking them on outings, all with the fervent hope that they won’t have to go through what he went through.