By Shirley Hawkins9
For seven years, Troy Vaughn’s home was living in a cardboard box on Los Angeles’ Skid Row.
“I lived in and out of the streets, sleeping in cardboard boxes periodically,” Vaughn recalls. “I was in and out of shelters, cars, and Missions — anywhere just to find a place to sleep.”
Then Vaughn, a former Marine, received the worst news of his life. “My father passed away from a drug overdose and my life shattered into pieces,” he recalled. “I started using controlled substances, and later cocaine, to cope with the emotional trauma. My father’s addiction soon became mine as well. And my life continued to spin out of control until I hit rock bottom,” Vaughn said. “I found myself living on Skid Row and had no hope.”
Broken and filled with despair, Vaughn uttered a prayer one night that would forever change his life. “I prayed to God that I would serve Him for the rest of my life if He would deliver me from the streets. It was just that simple,” he recalls.
God answered his prayer. “He told me to leave my cardboard box and seek help,” Vaughn recalls. “I crawled out of that cardboard box in December 1992. I knocked on the doors of the Union Rescue Mission and went through an intense, year-long rehabilitation program to rebuild my life. It gave me the tools for long-term sobriety that truly saved my life,” Vaughn said. “Since the day I left that program, I vowed to do everything I could to help others living on Skid Row who were experiencing the same ills that I had overcome.”
Vaughn went on to receive a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Advanced Legal Studies from Kaplan University as well as an Executive JD from Concord Law School. He also holds a Graduate Certification in Executive Non-profit Management from Cal State University of Los Angeles (CSULA) and Fundraising and Marketing from Cal State University of Long Beach (CSULB). Vaughn also acquired a Master’s Degree in Divinity and Theology and a Doctorate in Theology from the Master’s School of Divinity.
Reverend Troy Vaughn, and his wife Darlene, also founded Christ Centered Ministries (CCM) in Inglewood in 1993 with the aim to see men and women delivered from the chains of addiction. CCM began working tirelessly with the missions of the downtown Skid Row area in an effort to build bridges for men and women trying to transition out of their recovery treatment programs. The non-profit organization is also dedicated to creating housing and employment opportunities for the disenfranchised.
Rev. Vaughn is also the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership (LARRP), a network of public, community and faith-based agencies and advocates working together to advance positive change for millions of formerly incarcerated and convicted Angelenos. Since its inception, LARRP has worked to build public will for greater equity in the criminal justice system and helps to increase funding for housing, health, and social services for the FIC people and those who serve them.
Having spent years consulting with organizations about the problems on Skid Row, Vaughn’s vast knowledge and experience attracted the attention of the Los Angeles Mission and he was asked to join the Board of Directors. In September 2020, Vaughn was unanimously elected by the Los Angeles Mission Board to become the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Mission. He is the first African American to hold the position in the Mission’s 81 year history.
Vaughn said he was overwhelmed to be elected. “I had a lot of different emotions,” he recalled. “I felt overjoyed. I was dependent on God and I totally surrendered to Him. I just had to understand that the position was bigger than me. God made room for me in this position and I find confidence in prayer and keeping my eyes on the Lord.”
Since assuming the position, Vaughn has rolled up his sleeves numerous times, and diligently working to offer the residents an array of programs, including employment, skill development, family reunification and housing for men and women. And the Mission daily feeds the hungry — providing half a million meals a year.
Remembering his own experiences on Skid Row’s gritty streets, Vaughn constantly offers hope, encouragement and understanding to the residents of Skid Row. Sheltering the unhoused as COVID-19 continues to devastate lives is another goal of the Los Angeles Mission.
In the meantime, Vaughn is determined to improve the landscape of Skid Row. “Our doors are always open and we are always looking for partnerships and volunteers,” he said.
This past August, Vaughn was appointed to the Board of the Prison Industry Authority by Governor Gavin Newsom.
“Everything starts with seeing people and meeting them where they are at — a smile, a meal, a loving guide,” Vaughn commented regarding touching lives on Skid Row. “Meeting people where they are at is essential for helping people who have hit rock bottom. For me, it always starts with that — seeing people and meeting them where they are at.”