Matthew's Story

“Hello, my name is Matthew Hernandez. I’m 28 and I am from Gilroy, California. I am recently homeless, not really by choice. I had a falling out with my son’s mother and she got him taken away by CPS and for the last six months I’ve been battling to get back 100% custody of him. But in the process I’ve gone through three or four jobs. And I’ve been homeless twice this year and this is the first time in my whole life that I’ve ever been homeless.

Basically, I’m not trying to be homeless. Homeless to me is more of a mentality, its more of people wanting to live on the streets. I don’t want to live on the streets. I want my son to have a good house and I want him to go to a good school. I want him to have good friends that he can bring home to the house and not have to worry about what he is going to eat that night or where is he going to sleep that night. It’s just in this area it’s really hard because rent is so high. It’s just hard to find a job too, and keep a job. With all of the court stuff that I have going on it’s not easy to keep a job, because the court want me to put a roof over my son’s head and do all of the court stuff plus visitations with my son. It’s just very overwhelming at times and makes me want to give up, but I will never give up on my son. I love him so much.

Being homeless is not where I thought I would be. It’s where I’m at, so I’m making the best of it and just keeping my spirits up. My son sees that and he senses my positivity and it’s making us move forward.

Being homeless is really tough. I’m glad that I have a car, I’m thankful that I have a car. It’s somewhat of a shelter over my head. But you can’t really find a spot to sleep in Gilroy. You can’t really sleep in your car, as I’ve been harassed by so many cops just laying in my car trying to get some sleep, even in neighborhoods where it doesn’t look suspicious. They just want to go around and harass people. I’ve literally been on private property one time at my friend’s shop and they came up and harassed me even though I was just trying to sleep, and they do that to a lot of homeless people. They seem to feel that, just because we’re homeless and don’t have a house, that means we also don’t have rights. And we do have rights.

I’m trying to look more into the security field, I’ve been doing security for 13 years but at this moment I’m pretty much willing to do anything not to be homeless, to put money into my son’s pockets and my pockets, and just bring money into the household. It’s really hard being a single father and doing this alone, but I have my son so I’m not alone and I know I can do it.

My family support is really messed up right now. My mom loves me but she lives in Santa Barbara. Me and my dad don’t get along, he lives right here in Gilroy. My parents got a divorce when I was eleven and my dad pretty much focused on his new wife and her family and pretty much kicked me and my sister and my mom to the curb. Basically it’s been like that since I was eleven, but my dad taught me how not to treat my son. I’m not going to do what my dad did to me and kick my son out over a new family, because I love my son so much.

I have cousins too but sometimes I’m too prideful to ask for help because I’m 28. I would be doing this on my own but this area is just so hard in rent, and if you’re making only minimum wage you have to be working at least 80 hours a week in order to somewhat make it. It’s ridiculous over here. I want to get out of this state really bad.

I’m lucky that I have a friend that lets me shower at his place when he gets off work. He lets me stay there a couple of nights, but other than that, if I didn’t have the Compassion Center here in Gilroy ...

I have food stamps but they don’t last the whole month because food is so expensive. I’m glad I have the CC because I have a place where I can hang out and just get out of the elements. If it’s raining outside, I can come inside and be dry for a little bit. It’s a good place to hang out and talk to people, because getting through tough times is easier with people. It’s a lot harder to do that alone.

I feel safe because I’m a big guy. If I was smaller then I wouldn’t be safe because there’s a lot of crazy stuff that happens out there. I’m a guard so I have a gun and I feel a little more protected than most people. But I’m not safe from cops, they come up and harass me all of the time. Those are the people that I don’t feel safe from, honestly, the police. They have the power to end my life and who knows what they’re feeling that day. It’s tough.

Home to me is a place where I can go and cook some food, relax with my son. It’s a place where I can be myself without having to worry about people harassing me or saying “oh that father is homeless and he has a kid”. I want a place where I cannot be judged and just relax.

Even though I’m homeless, I’m just like you. I work hard. I’m an everyday man. I do my work, I come home, I take care of my kid. We’re not so different, you and I. We have a lot of similarities on the insides, and outsides we are humans, we are men, women, children. We’re the same even though we’re not financially equal. We’re equal in God’s eyes and we’re equal to each other.

I am a person just like you and I do deserve respect.”