Faviola's Story

Faviola is from Gilroy, has three kids, Alex 9, Bruce 7, Destiny 3, married to Carlos. Volunteer at the compassion center. “If they ever need help I’m there.” I do have a disabled child, Alex. We do live in our van unfortunately. We have lived in there for over a year and two months now.

“Everything keeps getting closed. All doors are getting closed on us. The more I try, the more I get the answer NO. I applied so much this year that my credit score went down one hundred points. I’m broke. By the second week of November I have no money. It’s more expensive living on the street because I have to worry about more diapers, more wippies. My son, the disabled one, has a habit of taking off his diaper and he’ll poop all over the van. I have to clean everything out and that’s about maybe $30 dollars. I’m really good with numbers so if you hear me talking about budgets and stuff like that that’s why I do it. My second son goes [somewhere] he’s a growing kid and he has a little sister named Destiny and she’s pretty awesome. A lot of people ask me if I have family here and I do. The only reason they don’t help me is because they can’t. This county has put so many walls up that I can’t get nowhere. I can’t leave Santa Clara County. I have a sister that lives in Hollister. Can’t go over there. I have an older brother and his apartment burned down and he lives with my mom. And my mom is one of those people who because of this county she got so skittish that she doesn’t want to help me anymore. And I’ve just learned to deal with it ourselves. And I’ve been living in the van, yeah. Being criticised. Knocking on the window by the officers about every week or so.

So in 2013 my father passed away and I did the mistake and turned to alcohol and drugs. Year after, I was pregnant and I had Destiny. And we both were alcoholics and on other types of drugs. The kids were all removed from my custody and Gus too (I guess the dog), and I worked my butt off to get them back and I did. But this County doesn’t let you go more beyond that. I get bullied or picked on, or I’m just a target for everybody. Especially because I have Alex, I’ve been told already, “Why don’t you give him up for adoption?” No. It’s hard enough as it is, just being a woman out there, cause I literally had to learn how to fight. I mean, I already knew how to fight, but, to fight guys, I have to fight everybody and I have three kids I have to worry about. And...it sucks.

“Why is the County not letting you have a house with the children?” This County has a funny way of helping people. I did everything they asked me to do in court, plus more. There's two parts to it, there’s the criminal and the family court. Family court I’m done with within a year. They’re all happy about it. Here comes the criminal part. They want me to do everything, every single program again. I’ve told them that it’s harder with the kids, now that I have them back. Why can’t they take into account everything that I’ve already done, not do it all over again? But right now I’m facing maybe four years of prison, if I don’t do what they tell me to do. But like I said, some of the stuff theyre asking me to do, like take the two week program, parenting without violence, I’ve been doing it for the past two years since I got the kids back. I go [somewhere] but they don’t accept it. It has to be where they tell you to go. They want you to pay out of your pocket when you can do it for free. And honestly that has taken a chunk out of my money that I usually need for the whole month. The judges make it seem like everybody is the same, everything goes the same way. They don’t want to even hear what is going on.

When I got evicted thats when everything started, that’s under my name. But it was never for not paying rent or paying bills. The woman’s daughter was not doing good and she went on a power trip and decided to evict everybody out and I wasn’t complaining. But the way she did things with the County and with the police department and with the [apachee sentinels?] and with the city of Gilroy was not cool. I didn’t get my thirty days. I didn’t get my sixty days that I was supposed to get. I didn’t get the ninety days. We went straight from August 1st when I got the first eviction notice to August 5th when I had the second eviction notice and by August 10th we had the court trial. How did you jump so fast? Who knows? Maybe she paid, maybe, who knows. The [sentinels] said they would help us, but they never did. I lost everything. Literally everything. I do have a storage for a little bit of stuff. But its only clothes and things that I can carry. There was stuff that I couldn’t give to someone to look after. I didn’t get it back. Stuff that belonged to my dad. My artwork that I have from my older son, you know, like doodles. That really killed me. And handprints, footprints that I had. All three of my kids were premature babies. Alex was born at six months, Bruce at seven, Destiny at eight. Their hand prints were really small.

...have a heart. I say I don’t. Because I can’t give that much to my kids. Even though I’m screaming and kicking inside. I just have to hold it. Everyone says you’ve got to fake it to make it and that’s what I have to do for these kids.

Back in July my husband got pulled over and taken into custody. Because he was driving a car with no license plate because he had just bought it off of his boss, but the boss was in the middle of getting things in order. The probation officer is not really working with us. They’re trying to make us fail at any cost. The thing I could see is they’re trying to take the kids away from us again, but me and my husband are working hard on that. When he got pulled over, they asked if he was feeling depressed or suicidal and he said of course he was feeling depressed, look where I’m at. So they put him in with the 51 50s (Compulsorily admitted) in the jail. They had him in there for ten days and he came out in a really bad shape. They had him on sixty mg of sedation and anti-depressants and he was knocked out pretty much every day. When they released him, they didn’t give him any medication to come down slowly. He would wake up in the middle of the night really confused. He got really aggressive and it was like I was taking care of another kid. Where is the County there? They did this to him, not me. While he was in jail, he couldn’t get up, he couldn’t eat. We went to visit him one day in court and he didn’t even look like himself. He was so skinny, and this guy is normally an eater. He looked really bad. Even the social services worker that talks to us said that he isn’t himself. He isn’t thinking and talking and he’s really slow.

We do go to family therapy. We do go to kids’ therapy. We do everything they ask us to do. Never say no. But they have threatened to take our children away. They’re not supposed to but they do. The recent one was, “If you don’t get your stuff together, you’re going to get your kids taken away.” - and I go, I try it. “Go for it! I want you to see you try!” If my job was to protect these children in the past, well I’m doing it now, I’m trying. I even said, “Over my dead body, you’re going to take my children away.” “The first time you did it, it nearly killed me. But I’m not going to go down without a fight.”

With a lot of the housing programs, I don’t meet the criteria, or I don’t make enough, or I need to make less, or my credit score is too high or too low. With the point system they have, it’s never where they want it to be. Like the new homes that are coming up at the Alexandria station - I don't make enough. The Morgan Hill RV park is full right now. I’ve checked. I’ve tried. The Compassion Center even gave me a pop-up trailer, but I can’t park it anywhere because it’s too old. And I don’t have the luxury of going up to the mountains to park it there and come back down. I can’t afford that. And people are like, oh well you’re not doing anything - your husband can work. No, he can’t. Doctor told him not to work for two-three months because the medication was making him sleepy and he does a lot of handywork. He was falling asleep with power tools in his hand. Hopefully by December he’ll get back to work, back into the same routine. But I’m tired of trying.

The kids got sicker going to the shelter. You have to be up at 4 am to eat and out by 5 am and back out into the cold. My body doesn’t handle it well. I have had a few falls with Alex in his wheelchair. Once he was about to fall but I flipped it around and he ending falling on me and my back hit the sidewalk and hasn’t been the same. I still have to pick him up and do what I gotta do.

My fear - them taking my kids away. One of them getting sick and passing away. Alex is a little time - bomb, he wasn’t supposed to last this long.

We were making rent of $2500, but everything around is getting closed on us. The kids have been real troopers. When we do get money at the beginning of the month, Alex gets SSI (disability benefit?) We spent the first week it at Hotel 6, they’re pretty cool there. The Garlic Farm, too. Alex has a tendency to kick and scream at night as he goes to sleep. Those two hotels are cool about it, the Kings, the Oaks, They’ve all been understanding.

I do get assistance, but it comes with a price. They’re giving you help and everything. But when the social workers want you to do something, you have to do it right then. They don’t care that I don’t have the time to do these things. I’m constantly going and going, worrying about the kids from 4 in the morning. I forget to go to the restroom sometimes. I forget to eat and I’m diabetic.

While I volunteer at the Compassion Center my husband looks after the kids. He doesn’t have the clearance to look after them, but I leave them for half an hour, forty-five minutes. The Compassion Center is pretty awesome about them being in the van and I watch them or they’re inside watching a movie. I trust him - he’s a good dad. The kids love him. Its really hard. He was released yesterday from jail, but before that, I’ve had a couple of incidents. I guess, because I’m a female. I was called a stupid mom, a worthless mom, that I should give my kids up to adoption because they’d be better off. But now I know why a lot of these women give up their kids. Because they give up on themselves. Society is so cruel.

My support system is pretty good. Everytime I freak out, I go to an AA meeting and they help me calm down and say its okay. They give me options, and options are something I don’t have. It’s either living on the street or living in the van. Obviously the van. Its either living in the shelter or living in the van. Obviously I prefer the van because I feel more safe. I’ve been tempted to go back to drinking but I haven’t. Something in me or around me always stops it. I’ll be in the store looking at alcohol and someone will pass me, or something will distract me and then it’s like, whatever. Or I will only have five dollars and I can either buy alcohol, or feed the kids, so I’ll buy a gallon of milk instead.

People have tried to hurt me, tried to harass me but my dad taught me to fight. I’ve taken self - defence classes at Gavilan and I’m going to be starting the boxing classes here in Gilroy soon. I’m not a person that lets them push me around but it gets rough out there. Cause you get some people that just don't care. They don’t care that you have kids in the car and they’ll do something stupid. But the homeless community is pretty great. They’ll shield me and the kids. And because they know my kids. Bruce helps me pick up bottles. I pick up bottles and cans and that’s like $20 a day.

At one point I asked the officers, including the Captain. Where can we park? The officer told us. It has to be a place where it’s well lit, there’s traffic going on, and there’s other people parking there. That’s what we were already doing but it's never enough. The cops always come and ask us to leave. They tell me to go to San Jose to go to the safe spots. Why would I go to San Jose, if I live here. There’s property available that’s not being used. Why can’t we park there during the nights? There’s gotta be rules of course. Clean up your mess if you made one. Even if you didn’t make it, still clean it up.

One thing that I’ve missed the most is the bathroom. Alex and Destiny are still in diapers but Bruce has had to learn to pee in a bottle. Red Robin, Chevron, and Am/pm are all pretty cool and let my kids use the restroom. Bruce always says thank you for letting him use the bathroom.

I don’t think nobody deserves to be on the street. The worst thing you can do is give up, but I can see now why people have. Don’t judge a book by its cover, because not everyone is there because of alcohol and drugs. I’ve met some people who are there just because their husband passed away or because of some messed up circumstances and nobody cares. There are some women who were getting their butt kicked by their husbands and family members who barely made it out alive. And they’re still out there.

It's been hard surviving out there with the smoke. But we’ve been able to stay at the armery. Its been hard, especially the nights that we’ve not been able to make it to the armery. People try to take things off of the car, try to get into the van but we do what we have to do to protect the kids. But it is hard. We don’t have masks, the kids don’t like wearing them. Especially Alex. Currently people have been donating to pay for motel rooms.”