On weekends, do you normally make big plans with your kids? If not, one Houston man says maybe you should. He says he's proof of what can happen when parents don't spend quality time with their children.
"Me and my brother were getting abused at home and because of that abuse it pushed me and my brother into the streets," explains Demetrias Dale Charles. Would you believe Charles became a gang member when he was just eight years old? "They showed us love, a false sense of love as I've come to understand it," says Charles.
His brother was only seven years old and in one of the most notorious gangs in the country. "Snatching purses. We were small so they would push us into windows of people's homes and have us go and open the door," Charles explains.
Charles knows from experience how gangs prey on and recruit kids who aren't getting what they need at home. "I got into a shootout with the Los Angeles Police Department when I was 18 years old. I robbed an undercover police officer," he says.
The now 40-year old has survived more than you can imagine. He spent years as a teenager and young man locked behind bars. "I was two cells away from Charles Manson and in the same section as Sirhan Sirhan".
Charles points out gangs steal much more than money and goods but also futures. "You don't even realize you're suffering because you grew up in it. You think this is normal but this is not normal. Man I missed out on life," explains Charles. Charles' little brother is still incarcerated. He's been in prison 23 years, after being sentenced to fifteen years to life. "He got into a shootout with some gang members in a Crenshaw Bowling Alley and one of the ladies got killed. She was covering her kids, an innocent bystander. This is the price that we pay, all gang members pay, when they're out here in the streets and they're holding guns and knives and inflicting violence on the public. I started selling crack cocaine, weed, started doing credit card forgeries. At one point I was making $25,000 in two and a half hours.
After spending just about his whole life in a gang and doing all that comes with it, Charles wanted out. "I walked away. I simply walked away". He left California, came back to the Houston area where he was born and wrote a book called "Playin' in the Streets: A Life Minus Love Equals Pain". That was more than a decade ago. "This is my story. This is how God changed my life. Nine times out of ten I give away more books than I sell."
Charles is now proud to make an honest living working at a fast food restaurant. He's telling anyone who will listen his story, especially kids.
"I'm going to talk about my life and I'm going to try to encourage these young kids not to go down the same route I went. You can't get a good job. It's like you have this stigma on you the rest of your life. Even in your relationships. You can be so in love with a woman but how are you going to provide for her?"
Charles may have gotten a late start but he says he's on the right path now, speaking to school groups and mentoring children. Remember he says one thing could have kept him from a life of crime and gangs, parents who cared enough to raise him the right way.
"Don't get tired of fighting for your kids. Love your kids. Give your kids your all. At the end of the day people are going to look at my story and say if Demetrias can do then I can do it."
Charles points out it can be very dangerous to walk away from a gang. He says if you are in that position and you want out find someone or some organization you trust and tell them you need help escaping a gang. Law enforcement gang task force units can also help you get out of a gang.