From Riches to Rags, Famous Author Shares His Story in Yakima - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

From Riches to Rags, Famous Author Shares His Story in Yakima

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YAKIMA, Wash.--People eagerly strolled into St. Timothy's Episcopal Church Sunday, but not with the intention of making weekly service. Instead it was to hear one man speak.

A man who went from living the American dream to living in a van.

Richard LeMieux owned a thriving publishing company that allowed him to own his own boats, cars and a luxurious home. Until one day, his company went belly up.

"My friends didn't want to see me because they were afraid I'd ask for money," said LeMieux. "My wife had left because she was frightened of being homeless. I know I could never get back to where I was before, ever. So there was only one way out, and that was to go to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge on Christmas Day with the full intention of ending that worthless man's life."

But then a miracle happened. LeMieux heard his dog, Willow, barking and he said he felt needed in that moment. Thanks to Willow, LeMieux is here today sharing his story with the world and spreading the message that anyone at anytime can become homeless.

"I never expected to be homeless," said LeMieux. "I was always successful."

"None of us are very far from the street," said Pastor Anne Barton. "It's not a matter of those people or that situation. It could be anybody."

LeMieux said he hopes to inspire people in Yakima to help those in need. Whether it be supplying food or giving someone a place to spend the night.

"I can't drive to church in the morning without going by people with signs out of work, any kind of help would be welcome," said Pastor Barton.

"The greatest feeling we'll ever have is to know that we did help," said LeMieux. "We helped."

LeMieux said he wants to debunk the myths that the majority of homeless people are alcoholics or drug addicts.

He said the new faces of homelessness are children. According to the Homeless Network of Yakima County, almost 30 percent of the 996 homeless people in the county are indeed children.