Drug addiction led 27-year-old Francesco Rizzuto to call the streets of South Africa his home for five years, and a senseless crime made him re-evaluate his life.
“I became homeless at the age of 21 in 2013. I had a serious drug habit and I began stealing from my stepfather to support my habit.
“I was eventually kicked out,” Rizzuto told News24 on Friday.
“It was very tough and emotionally, it really traumatised me. I woke up feeling guilty and embarrassed as I tried to get through each day,” he explained.
It was not long before Rizzuto got involved in crime to survive.
“I felt rejected by society, but I had to admit to myself that I didn’t have any self-worth when I got involved in bad things,” he said.
Two years ago, Rizzuto was part of a group that attempted to rob a man.
“We abducted a youngster, we wanted his laptop and other goods. He didn’t want to give up his goods.
“He was stabbed multiple times and I had to throw him out of the vehicle,” he explained.
It was at that moment that Rizzuto realised he was far gone and needed to change his life for the better.
“I got on my knees and prayed every day for three months after this incident,” he said.
In 2018, Rizzuto’s friend spotted him on the streets and offered him a way out.
“He suggested that I go to rehab. I agreed within 30 minutes and spent 11 months there,” he added.
Rizzuto, who celebrated his 27th birthday on Wednesday, has now been drug-free for a year and is now working and living with “the love of his life”.
His one wish is to dedicate his life to addressing the plight of the many homeless people in South Africa.
“Right now, I would love to open a feeding scheme for the homeless, these are people who deserve to be treated with care,” he said.