Walter Randolph remembers the day he considered suicide as he walked on the bridge above the 5 Freeway in Tustin.
“Voices said, ‘You failed again,’ ” Randolph recalled. “It would be simple to climb over this fence, jump in front of a truck and end it all.”
He had sought a fresh start in California in 2013 after a divorce, but soon found himself broke and homeless.
As he stood on the bridge, though, a competing voice chimed in.
“God is not done with me yet,” Randolph recalled thinking.
By 2014, he was looking for hope when he received an invitation to a church service in Laguna Beach.
And he found it in the form of Don Sciortino, pastor of Laguna Beach Net-Works church, who not only ministered to Randolph but eventually took the stranger into the home he shares with his wife.
Randolph was staying at the Alternative Sleeping Location, an overnight shelter in Laguna Canyon, after moving to California from Ohio.
Randolph and a business partner had established a life-coaching business in 2010 that they hoped would turn a profit in the Golden State. It didn’t.
While at the ASL, he heard another person who was staying at the shelter speak fondly of Sciortino. The man “dragged me” to a service at Sciortino’s church, Randolph said.
It turned out to be just what he needed.
“I felt at home,” said Randolph, who had grown up in a Christian home. “It was a family congregation.”
Sciortino started Laguna Beach Net-Works, a church affiliated with the Assn. of Vineyard Churches, in 2009, after receiving what he describes as a vision from Jesus while driving by Main Beach.
As part of the message, Jesus told him, “I want to gather distinct people and groups in Laguna Beach that will become a community that will reveal me in and to Laguna Beach,” according to the Laguna Beach Net-Works website.
Through a nonprofit called Net-Works Laguna Beach, Sciortino and his wife, Karen, have helped secure cars for people and assisted more than a dozen people in finding housing. They consider it their calling to help.
As part of their outreach, the Sciortinos have invited two people to live with them at different times, including Randolph, 51.
“He was part of our community over the years,” Karen Sciortino said this week at her and her husband’s Laguna Beach home. “We knew he was clean, sober, hard working.”
“I was ecstatic because I was not sure where I was going to go,” Randolph said.
Randolph stayed at the ASL for two months before moving into the Friendship Shelter, a Laguna shelter and rehabilitation facility for the homeless, in July 2014. Randolph was there for six months.
He then lived with an acquaintance in Mission Viejo, followed by house-sitting for someone he knew from church before the Sciortinos offered him a room in November 2015.
Randolph continued facing challenges on the job front. Soon after moving in with the Sciortinos, Randolph lost his job as a greeter with Cox Communications when the company canceled the program.
Randolph is now paid to register new members for the United Domestic Workers of America, a union of homecare workers.
Randolph spends his days driving a 1992 Volvo, which the Sciortinos helped secure for him, throughout Southern California to register new members.
At the Sciortino home, he pays rent and has full kitchen privileges, and the housemates all seem to coexist comfortably. Randolph’s job also keeps him away at times, helping to ease the new living situation.
“I give them their space and let them be, but I’m invited to a lot of family events as well,” Randolph said. “We’re all adults and respect each other’s space.”
“This is not original,” Sciortino said of people inviting a homeless person to live with them. “The bottom line is it needs to be done.
“People want to see the homeless as a project. I can’t relate to the homeless as a project. We see them as potential friends and family.”
Randolph has three grown children who live out of state, and he looks forward to the day when he can see his 6-month-old granddaughter for the first time.