Maria's Story

Maria and her fiance have been homeless for 3 years, but are fortunate enough to have a car. She volunteers at the Compassion Center. She has a disability. Helping people is what she does best, because she enjoys it. Volunteering has helped her stay sober. She and her fiance are both in recovery. 15 months clean and sober. 15 months volunteering at the Compassion Center. Her fiance works, but when he isn’t working, he volunteers at the Center. 5 children, 5 grandchildren. She became homeless 5 years ago, lost jobs and couldn’t afford to pay rent. All of the children live far away (Washington, San Diego, San Maria, Stockton, Whittier.) They’re homeless but support their youngest who goes to school in Whittier, help her pay rent because they want her to succeed as a film director. Education is a big thing for her. Second child of seven from Texas originally. 56 years old.

“This is not what I had planned for my life. No one plans on being homeless. People automatically assume all homeless people are druggies. I’m not going to deny, obviously I was on something, but now I’m in recovery. Volunteering here helps me stay sober. Because we deal with a lot of people here, I get to be reminded every day of why I don’t want to go back. For one, all it does is add to the misery. I have met so many wonderful people here. Everyone has their own different story. I have my family. I have my family from recovery. I have my Compassion Center family and they are all different. If you were to ask me which one I prefer over the other I couldn’t give you an answer. I couldn’t answer that because it doesn’t matter whether you're an alcoholic, you're an addict, you have a mental problem, you're homeless, and you come here. We are humans and we all bleed and breathe the same.

If and when I get housed, like I’ve told them here at the Center, I will continue to come back and help. I’m not going to stop coming here. I don’t forget where I came from and they have helped me to keep my sanity, my peace of mind, sober. I thank God every day that I still have my children in my life. I’ve said to my children, I know I wasn’t the best mother and how could I be, you know, if you're in addiction, how could you be a good parent. However, I was always a functioning one. It doesn’t make it any better, but today I choose to live my life different. Like I said, I might not be where I want to be, but I know that God has me exactly where he wants me to be today. After that, I’m grateful.

My only advice to women who have found themselves homeless is to let go and let God. Which is something I learned in fellowship of AA. I was raised religious for a lot of my life. And I know now that when I let go of God, that’s when I let go of everything and that was all bad. It wasn’t until I went into recovery and went back to church, found God - a lot of people say “Oh yah I found God.” No, how can you find him, he was never lost. We’re the ones who get lost, as humans. You know, hang on to your faith, find a higher power. Find resources, somebody to help us out there. There is always help.

Now here is the problem, if we don't know what or we don't know how to go about asking. Its like I tell my children all the time - Closed mouths can’t be heard or fed. You have to ask. And sometimes people are embarrassed to ask. If you were to ask me before, to do something like this, I wouldn’t have done it because ‘oh its embarrassing.’ No, this is life. This is reality. Its unfortunate, but Reality hits everyone.

What we need is low-income housing. Not affordable housing. Because even affordable housing is hard. The rent is ridiculous. My fiance and I can’t get into affordable housing because we don’t make enough. You know, with what I get with disability and what he gets with his paycheck, its not enough for affordable housing. All of these structures keep going up for affordable housing here and there. No. What we need is low-income because there are people like us who can’t afford “affordable.” What we need is something we can afford, to get off of the streets, to be able to get into a home.”