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Rags to Riches: Hollywood star Duane Henry hopes his journey defying all odds will inspire others in Santa Barbara

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A homeless man turned Hollywood celebrity.

It's not a script. 

As you're about to discover, it's real life.

From rags to riches, Hollywood celebrity Duane Henry is known for his spellbinding performances on hit TV shows like NCIS.

“I’ve been passionate about film and TV since I was young … I always had a target to stay in England for 10 years … then move to America after those 10 years no matter what happens … so ... it was just part of the plan to move to Hollywood," said Henry.

Born in 1985, Henry entered the entertainment industry at a young age.

The British actor quickly became a rising star capturing the hearts of audiences worldwide.

“I’m drunk on audacity more than anything. I just have a vision and a mission and ... I say why not … rather than why," said Henry.

But behind this charismatic trailblazer, lies a journey filled with twists and turns ... and eventually triumph.

Henry was homeless for a time, and says his upbringing in Birmingham, England... was difficult. 

“I was couch surfing … and people assuming you’re not homeless is one of those things … you don’t wear a label … so they assumed I was just fine … and it wasn’t … I sort of would stay up … crash with another friend … or as I said rent in a U-Haul … hahaha crash in a U-Haul and as I said just crash at a gym," said Henry.

Since his move to Los Angeles, the actor has defied all odds, transforming his life from just getting by, to prominence as a breakout star.

Regional advancement director Jack Lorenz of DignityMoves, a nonprofit focused on helping the homeless in Santa Barbara believes Henry’s story is more the rule and not the exception.

“Close to 45 percent of all of our residents actually go to work … it’s a very small percentage of the folks that you see that are so unstable … so when somebody like Duane stands up and says … that was me … it profoundly shifts the conversation," said Lorenz.

Henry is a big supporter of DignityMoves, and even plans to move from L.A. to Santa Barbara.

“A the overall advocacy for homeless is enormously important. It really takes somebody like Duane who has lived experience … and has come to … what we would consider the most successful place in the world … which is Hollywood … and if he can connect the dots between living on the streets and becoming a Hollywood celebrity … we’re incredibly grateful … that’s a very powerful tool for all of us," said Lorenz.

Henry hopes his influence will shine a spotlight on solutions, and ultimately change people's lives.

“So when somebody like Duane shares those intimate stories, you connect the dots and make it more personal for yourself … it’s almost like … But for the grace of God … go I," said Lorenz.

As Henry becomes a force in front of the camera, the homeless advocate wants to help those in need right in our own backyard.

“Once I met Dan and he told me his story I knew that we had a gem of a person … that would be really supportive of our work … and he’s going out of his way to make sure that not only do people know his story … but they know about how we are helping those that can’t help themselves right now," said Lorenz.

“That's what I'm here for ... I’m here to help and let them know. … hey I’ve been where you are and you’re not alone in this … no matter where I am … what I’m doing in my life … I’ll always be there to help," said Henry.

Henry hopes his message can inspire others to not give up, and write their own Hollywood ending.

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Patricia Martellotti

Patricia Martellotti is a reporter for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Patricia, click here.


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