Participant Stories

Jessie's story

Jessie looked up at the sky through the tattered roof of an abandoned shed.  As the rain poured down, wetting her face, she thought, “I’m in a nightmare. This is not my life.”

I’m in a nightmare. This is not my life.

All her life, Jessie had a dream: to meet a decent man, get married, and start a family. For a while, it seemed like her dream might come true.  She met a mathematician and fell in love. They got married and had a son. She and her husband were together for 19 happy years. She adored him. They lived in a comfortable house in Palmdale, but her husband developed cancer, and in 2012, he passed away. “He was a great man, he lived for the community, and I miss him,” she says as she chokes up and fights back tears. “I wish he was here.” He left her a book, his PhD thesis, that she hopes to publish one day.

Jessie looks through her late husband’s PhD thesis.

Jessie looks through her late husband’s PhD thesis.

Jessie’s name wasn’t on the mortgage of the house, so after her husband passed, she did not have enough money to pay off the rest of the loan and they had to move out. A neighbor took in her son, but Jessie was left to fend for herself.

At first, she was able to house-sit a home that was on the market. She lived there for nearly a year and a half, before it sold to someone else. Soon after, she was back on the streets.

Jessie did whatever she could to survive. At times she would squat in empty houses, going to Panda Express to wash up in the bathroom. When she had money from pan-handling, she would pay for a hotel room for $312/week.

The stress started to weigh on her, and she began experiencing anxiety and panic attacks.

Then she met Alycia Monroe, co-founder of Sisters on the Streets, a nonprofit that serves women experiencing homelessness. Alycia brought her to a Homeless Connect Day, where she connected with LA Family Housing.

Jessie entered LA Family Housing’s rapid rehousing program. They helped her move into shared housing. LAFH started by paying first month’s rent plus security deposit.

Jessie shows off her security badge.

Jessie shows off her security badge.

Jessie had a little money saved up so she used it to get her security guard license, and she got hired as a security guard at Platinum Security. First she was stationed in security for the Department of Water and Power, working 5-6 days a week. Now she is working security at the 99 cent store.

With a steady income, month by month, Jessie began to cover more of the rent, while LAFH covered less. Now Jessie pays the full $950 rent on her own. “I feel really good. I’m doing this on my own. It’s a lot of money, but I have to do it.”

Jessie’s phone rings. It’s her friend, Mary, a homeless woman she befriended while working at the 99 Cent Store. Jessie brings her food, clothes, and bought her boots. “I help her just like Alycia helped me. I think Mary came into my life for a reason. I got her a phone so she can keep in touch with me so I know she’s ok.” Spurred by her own experience, Jessie is trying to get her connected to services.

“Some people are homeless because of circumstances. Things that happen to you that you can’t control. At the time I had no resources, I didn’t know where to go. It’s not a good thing to be homeless, it’s horrible. I don’t wish it on anyone. No one wants that.”
Images of Jessie’s family are posted on the wall of her room.

Images of Jessie’s family are posted on the wall of her room.

“Some people are homeless because of circumstances. Things that happen to you that you can’t control. At the time I had no resources, I didn’t know where to go. It’s not a good thing to be homeless, it’s horrible. I don’t wish it on anyone. No one wants that.”

Jessie reflects on what it took to get to where she is today. “I can’t believe it, I came this far. From being on the streets.”

Jessie has a new dream for the future. To publish her husband’s book and to find a place of her own to live, surrounded by community and loved ones.

Hector's Story

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When Hector was five years old his parents made the difficult decision to uproot their lives in Jalisco, Mexico and move to Southern California in search of better life for their children. Their sacrifice paid off. Hector led a happy and stable life and eventually got his Associate’s Degree in General Education. He was a successful man, holding a number of different careers throughout his life. He began with managing health clubs, then transitioned to admissions work, and finally started his own LLC in debt collection.

This was what he was doing when he got the news that his mother passed away. Hector blamed himself for his mother’s passing. He felt that he should have done more for her and believed that he could have possibly saved her life. Hector quickly plummeted into immense feelings of remorse, shame, depression, and guilt.

He began to self-medicate with drugs, and slowly began losing everything around him.

For a year Hector lived out of his car, barely making enough money to afford gas. Then his car was taken away from him for having expired tags. He officially had nothing.

For the next two years Hector lived at a park in Los Angeles. One night Hector was attacked and robbed at gunpoint by someone he thought to be his “friend.” During the robbery, the very few items he had left that held any meaning for him were stolen. When discussing one of his lowest parts of his life he says, “Even when I was in a crowd, I would feel so lonely. There was no one there to help me.”

Even when I was in a crowd, I would feel so lonely. There was no one there to help me.

Hector knew things had to change, so the very next day he went to Homeless Connect where he was linked to LA Family Housing’s Bridge Housing.

Now, it has been eight months since he was living in a park surrounded by nothing but overwhelming depression and addiction. During his time at Bridge he has excelled in ways he never previously thought possible. He has worked closely alongside his housing navigator to find a place to live, as well as with LAFH’s employment team to find work. In addition, LA Family Housing has helped to connect him with legal aid in order to clear his tickets and acquire a new ID, social security card, and permanent residency card. Hector has also gotten clean and has no interest in returning to the drugs he was using before.

The future is beginning to look bright for Hector again. Hector has gone back to work. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to get housed. I’m literally cleaning toilets right now and I’m singing and smiling because that’s what I need right now.”

The last step is for Hector to find a new home. Hector emphasizes the importance of planning for the future including having his own home, finding a job, and pursuing various entrepreneurial projects.

Hector is extremely grateful for the stability, resources, and opportunities that Bridge Housing has provided him. In his words, “this place can give you everything you need. It’s up to you how you use it.”

Reflecting on the journey Hector has taken, he’s very positive for the future. “People ask if I’m ready to return to the life I had. But you can’t go back. I think life is three-dimensional. I feel like these past few years I’ve been living in a different dimension. I felt like I lost myself. But now I’m going on to my third dimension.” 

How SoCal Gas changed the life of LAFH participant Chantilya

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One day in August, I found myself in the Doctor's office being prescribed medication for depression, insomnia, and migraines. I knew that many aspects in my life played a part in this depression, but a majority was due to the stress and drama from my job. For the sake of my sanity, I left that job.

By mid-September I was facing eviction.

The many shelters I called were full, and the places I approached for rental assistance were out of funding or had a lengthy waitlist. I found a Salvation Army that was willing to help with my rent but couldn’t find a leasing office to accept the payment.

Then, I found LA Family Housing. After a brief intake, Eva provided instructions on how to get started on my journey. She helped me get food stamps, a California ID, and homeless assistance from Social Services the very same day I arrived! By the end of the business day, my children and I had a place to lay our head and food to eat thanks to LA Family Housing.

Eva also connected me with Maria, from LAFH’s employment team. After asking me about my experience and what kind of job I was looking for, Maria helped me submit my application to SoCalGas.

As I waited for a response, Maria sent daily emails of current job listings and job fairs taking place. A Barista position at Universal Studios caught my eye so I applied and a month later I got the job! It was a new and amazing experience for me. I was able to work at Universal Studios during the holidays and take my children to the theme park for free...all while being homeless!

In January, I received the invitation from SoCalGas to come and apply for a position. There was a group of eight that came in to test but I was the only one to pass. Two weeks later, I received an interview request. LA Family Housing helped me prepare for the interview by conducting mock interviews and providing constructive feedback. When the time came, they even provided me with transportation to my interview!

Three days later, I received an email that I passed my interview and would be placed in the candidate pool until a position became available. A week after that email, I received a call for an open position which I accepted and received my offer letter the following day!

I started as a Cashier with SoCalGas on April 8, 2019 and I already love my job. I am a permanent employee with full benefits. I love that this opportunity aligns with everything I have wanted in a career – from atmosphere, to the position itself, to the opportunity to travel while doing my job. I am truly blessed and humbled. I am so grateful for ALL of LA Family Housing. The care, compassion, eagerness, and willingness to help definitely does not go unnoticed. 

I'm currently still trying to secure permanent housing, and not only is LA Family Housing assisting me with this, but they're also providing shelter to assure that my children and I have a roof over our heads! A special thanks to my Case Manager, Siranush, who doesn't make me feel like "another case" but an actual human being!

Aigerim's Story

As asylum seekers, Aigerim, her husband Almas, and their two young girls Ailin and Amina moved in with their cousins as a way to find a better life and save money. But living together was more of struggle than expected, and Aigerim and her family were forced to leave. Almas drove Uber and Lyft to support the family while they bounced around from motel to motel

Every day Almas would drop the girls at school, leave Aigerim at the library to look for work, and begin his driving shift. The family saved money by eating one meal a day while the girls ate breakfast and lunch at school. Then one day at the library, Aigerim googled “LA shelter” and found LA Family Housing.

LA Family Housing was a life saver.
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LA Family Housing arranged for the family to stay at a motel, and once space became available, they were moved to bridge housing. With housing in place, Aigerim found an opportunity as a teacher’s assistant with support from LA Family Housing’s employment team. A few months later, they moved into a new permanent home.

On their first night at home, Ailin and Amina ran through the apartment, laughing and squealing as the family ate instant noodles together.

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“When we lived in motels and shelter, my daughters would always say, ‘Let’s go home. Let’s go home.’”

Because of LA Family Housing, Aigerim’s family was able to go home.

Tiesha's Story

Tiesha, a Los Angeles native and mother of five, fled her home with her three youngest children to escape an abusive relationship. Heartbroken and afraid, she left her eldest children with their Aunt and moved to a small, inexpensive place in Vegas. After five years of being separated from her children, Tiesha wanted to come home.  Reuniting was bittersweet, because it also meant that the family was too large to stay with relatives. With nowhere to turn, Tiesha’s family found themselves on the streets.

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Tiesha’s sister told her about LA Family Housing, who placed the family in crisis housing as they worked to find them a permanent home. After eight months of searching, Tiesha got the call from her Housing Navigator letting her know they had finally found them a home. “My eyes lit up like Christmas. It was time for me to go. I looked at my kids and I said, ‘You guys ready to go home? We have a house!’”

A home is a foundation. I couldn’t think about going to school when I was sleeping in someone’s truck.

Now that Tiesha has a place to call home, she also plans to go back to school for child development.

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Gilbert's Story

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Gilbert was born in East Los Angeles, and lived in the area almost his entire life. He had a successful life, working in the fashion industry in Beverly Hills for names like Barneys and Saks 5th Ave. But he was living a double life. During the days he was a high-end fashion business man, and at nights he was sleeping on the streets. It all started after the death of a loved one. He fell into a depression and began drinking, and eventually he lost his job, his house, his friends, his family. He lost everything.

Finally Gilbert hit rock bottom. He decided to end his life – after shooting up 400 units of insulin and some pills, he jumped off a bridge. But Gilbert survived, and after he recovered in the hospital, he was offered an opportunity to go to rehab and a second chance. “I went in with the mentality of just to get off the streets, but it was life changing. Best decision of my life.” While in rehab, he was connected to LA Family Housing.

After a few months in transitional housing, LA Family Housing found Gilbert an opening at a supportive housing site. “Moving into my new home was the best thing in the world. The first thing I did was just lie on the bed. I knew it was time to turn my life around.”

The best feeling in the world is to be able to help someone get their apartment. To see on their face the feelings and emotions that I felt myself.

Gilbert entered an educational program through LA Housing Works and just completed an internship at Tom Bradley Manor, where he helped homeless veterans to get off the street, get their Section 8, and get into housing.

Gilbert’s ultimate goal is to have a place of his own. “It’s a little frightening, but when that time comes, I’ll meet it head on. It’s been a while since I’ve said this, but I’m happy.”

Willesha's Story

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Willesha and her family came to Los Angeles hoping to find better jobs and opportunities. Willesha, her husband Clifton, and their two young children moved in with their extended family. Unexpectedly, Willesha’s relatives changed their minds about living together, and due to the soaring rents in Los Angeles, Wilesha and her family found themselves homeless.

Clifton called 211,  got connected to LA Family Housing, and the family was quickly placed in a motel.

For one year, the family did their best to live a normal life, although living in a motel was far from normal. Unable to cook, they ate out frequently, surviving on fast food. Their son Jadrian struggled in school and was ashamed of his living situation. LA Family Housing helped to get the family back on their feet with case management, hygiene bags, transportation, and employment support. Slowly, they began to find their footing. Clifton found warehouse work and Willesha secured an administrative position at a local non-profit. When LAFH helped them find an apartment in Van Nuys, the couple knew that their prayers had been answered.

After moving in to their new apartment, one of the first things Willesha did was cook for her family - a true sign that the family had come home.


Yanette's Story

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When Yanette lost her job at a local bakery, she was crushed. Her high-risk pregnancy was getting more and more challenging, and she wasn’t sure how she would care for her baby and her two-year-old son. Estranged from her mother, she moved in with her boyfriend and his roommate. When the friend sold their home unexpectedly, the couple was forced to find another place to live.

With no one to lean on, the family lived in their car: a sedan with a busted transmission that they sometimes had to push around. During Yanette’s pregnancy, Pierre worked odd jobs to bring in whatever cash he could. They lived in their car for two months before another family told them about LA Family Housing.

LAFH immediately placed them in a motel close to a grocery store and Yanette’s hospital. With resources nearby, Yanette didn’t feel as isolated and concerned about her pregnancy, for which she needed frequent checkups. LA Family Housing also provided her with baby products, a stroller, food, and other basic needs. Pierre began working with the LAFH employment team to increase his income. When she was able to go back to work, Yanette started at a retail store to make ends meet. LA Family Housing supported the couple through the housing process for 18 months before they found an affordable place to live.

We were so excited. The first thing Nicholas did was run into his room.

Yanette’s family moved into their new home just in time to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Now the boys can play in their room, and Yanette can bake, a passion that she wants to pursue in the future. Most rewarding is that she and her mother have reconciled, and now she visits her grandchildren in their new home.

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Ronnie's Story

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Ronnie, an L.A. native, has always had a passion for technology. After serving in the Air Force, the self-made IT engineer turned her passion into a career. Perfecting her craft for over 30 years, Ronnie dreamed of passing on her acquired knowledge to others. But when Cathy, her life partner of thirty-three years, became ill, she was faced with the reality of sacrifice, health issues, money concerns, unemployment, and eventually homelessness.

Ronnie moved around a lot in her early adult years, but came back home to California to care for Cathy’s father and his children. With three children now under her care, Ronnie stepped into the motherly role, guidance which she was deprived when she lost her mother at the age of 16.

Shortly after Cathy’s father’s death, Cathy too became ill and balancing work with the care of  her partner three children was more than she could handle. Ronnie had to choose: earn an income or care for her family. Ronnie gave up her job to be a full-time caregiver, a decision that later saved Cathy's life.

Shortly after Ronnie became unemployed, Cathy was rushed to the hospital with heart complications. Ronnie was the glue holding the family together during this difficult time. Over the course of treatments and medical bills, other responsibilities began to pile up. Soon, Ronnie and her family found themselves homeless.

An employee at Olive View Hospital, Cathy’s treatment center, recommended LAFH as a resource. After going through the intake process, Ronnie found comfort within the (former) Valley Shelter* walls. During her stay, Ronnie joined a nearby church which was formative as she entered the next phase of her life. It was through the church that she learned that “when starting anything, first you must find a purpose with what you are doing.”

Without missing a beat, Ronnie began volunteering in order to give back to her community. Every Tuesday and Thursday she serves food in the same quarters she once lived in. Ronnie introduced her fellow members of her church to volunteer as well.

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When asked why she continues to volunteer, Ronnie commented that “the folks didn’t ask to be homeless.”  Ronnie finds comfort in talking with her former neighbors from Valley Shelter. Seeing the positive progress that her friends make while volunteering adds to her continued purpose for giving back to her community.    

The future looks bright for Ronnie, and she hopes to start a program with LAFH and Bridge Housing that teaches participants about financial responsibility, computers, and eventually app development. With the help of her church and the resources provided by LAFH, Ronnie is back on her feet making a difference in the world.

“I know what it’s like to feel like the whole world has closed the door on you, and I don’t
like that feeling.”

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*In 2016, Valley Shelter was torn down, and in 2018 reopened as The Fiesta Apartments, supportive housing for 49 formerly homeless individuals.

Dominique's Story

After two years in an abusive relationship, Dominique felt trapped. With only a part-time job as an assistant, she couldn’t afford to move out. Scared for herself and her daughter Genesis, Dominique mustered the strength to leave and stayed with different friends for the next year. But bouncing around wasn’t healthy for her or for Genesis, and she sought help at LA Family Housing.

With the stability of bridge housing and support of LAFH staff, Dominique focused intently on her search for an affordable apartment. Using rental assistance from LAFH, she secured a home in just two weeks.

“I’ve never been more grateful.”

Today, Dominique enjoys the freedom and relief of having her own space. With her newfound peace of mind, she can pursue her dream of going to nursing school. Most importantly - Genesis now has a safe place to play and to call home.