Culture & Diversity

A house to help the “lost” find their way home

Centro de Rehabilitacion Ebenezer is a home for young men transitioning from a life of crime and substance abuse. Zoyla Lopez, who left Nicaragua after a devastating earthquake, founded it 34 years ago when she and her husband, Carlos, moved to the States with nothing but a passion to help others affected by tragedy.

They bought a building in Greater Los Angeles and turned it into a 200-bed homeless shelter. Every week, they would assist men living on the streets and give them a place to stay, bathe and eat.

A call to care

As the Lopezes raised a family of their own, their daughter Mayra caught the same passion and, years later, shared it with her husband, Willie Figueroa, sales assistant for Alex. Brown, a division of Raymond James.

“When I met Mayra and Zoyla, I instantly developed a passion for the ‘lost,’” recalled Willie. “They opened my eyes to those struggling with addiction and the effect it had on their families. I felt a calling to care for them.”

When Zoyla passed away in 2008, Mayra and Willie continued to carry out her mission: rebuilding lives shattered by drugs and alcohol.

“The first thing we did was move the center to Boyle Heights,” said Willie. “The home now resides on a beautiful 10,000-square-foot property, giving us more room to teach classes, care for residents and provide them with a ‘home away from home.’”

Visionaries at work

The Figueroas now serve together as presidents of Centro de Rehabilitacion Ebenezer and are live-in directors and mentors.

“When our children graduated high school, we decided to sell our home and live there instead,” said Willie. “Since then, we’ve connected with the residents more than ever before. I work at Alex. Brown Los Angeles during the day, and once the market closes, I return to the shelter to help with daily operations.”

The home remains a privately funded nonprofit facility powered by donations and volunteers from churches and community agencies, as well as local officials.

“Each resident’s story is different. Many men come off the streets, others are referrals, and some are even court-ordered from prison,” Willie shared.

Centro de Rehabilitacion Ebenezer is also more than just a safe place for them to call home for three months. In fact, “ebenezer” is a Hebrew word that means “stone of help” (or “piedra de ayuda”); it’s a symbol of the solid foundation they hope to provide addicts on the road to recovery.

A purpose worth praising

“Our purpose is to help rebuild a man’s life in an atmosphere of warmth, trust, support and love,” said Willie. “Everyone needs that, and it’s our privilege to share a source of strength with those who need it most.”

While living at the facility, residents recover from addiction and take classes ranging from decision-making and goal-setting to handling conflict, emotional healing, and freedom from co-dependency. When they leave, each man’s goal is to reconnect with their family, find a job, and stay well-connected to their community.

“When we bring someone in, we’re not just helping one guy,” said Willie. “We’re helping their wife, their family, their friends and the larger community. They learn life-changing principles, and the success is more than we could ever imagine.”

To learn more about Centro de Rehabilitacion Ebenezer and the Figueroas' mission, click here.

Raymond James is not affiliated with Centro de Rehabilitacion Ebenezer.