Sep 8, 2017 | by Fay Schuler

Rita and her four children came to the West after a very long period of homelessness, trauma, domestic violence, and issues of adult chemical dependency. Rita was referred by a Homeless Liaison from Chapman Elementary School. Rita and her kids, ages 4 to 12, came to The West shaken and nervous after living on the streets for a long period of time. After meeting with Rita, our Family Advocate learned how this family had been homeless, staying in cars, couch surfing, residing in hotels and emergency shelters for over a year. Rita was in an abusive relationship with her youngest children's father. He was manipulative, violent, but worst of all he made it impossible for her to parent her children.

Rita decided to leave her abuser and gave notice at the apartment she shared with him, obtained a restraining order, paid rent for the next couple of months to keep her belongings there. She and her children went to stay with a friend as she no longer felt safe at home. When she returned to collect her belongings, there was an eviction notice on the door, as her abuser had engaged in illegal behavior in the apartment and within a couple of weeks, her and her children found themselves locked out. Rita could no longer stay at her friend’s house, as she was putting their housing in jeopardy if she stayed longer than 2 weeks. Rita called domestic violence emergency shelters but got the same response, “we are full”.

For two months, Rita and her children bounced between hotels, friend’s couches, parked cars, and a shack she built for her family in a park. Rita reported that one night she woke to find one of her twins, age 4, had wandered off. She found him quickly, but knew then she needed to find a more permanent home for her and her four kids. Rita then bounced around between two different shelters, but was never able to establish stability for her and her children. Rita felt defeated and unable to continue. She felt she was failing as a mom, regardless of how hard she tried she could not provide her kids with safety and a home. Feeling defeated and hopeless, Rita called the West and was finally told we had an opening and she was able to come in with her kids. It was evident immediately the love she has for her children is immense. She was visibly shaken, but held it together for them. She decorated their room to make it home, spent time with each child, together and separately, and did everything she could to make them feel safe and happy.

While at the West, Rita dug in and really worked on her core issues around domestic violence, housing barriers, and past addiction issues. Rita attended our in-house groups, including over 20 hours of our domestic violence education, parenting classes, and support groups. Rita stabilized, and yet we saw the need for further assistance for her and her family. They needed a home in which to grow and bond as a family. Rita was approved for our Women's Housing Collaborative, which is a permanent supportive housing program designed to assist chronically homeless women in their efforts to achieve self-sufficiency by providing rental assistance, imparting life skills, and offering advocacy.

Rita and her children have been stably housed for the past 9 months, as she continues to attend our domestic violence and parenting support groups, access onsite child care, participate in chemical dependency treatment, engage in family therapy for the kids, gain employment skills, and make a beautiful home for her and her children to thrive in. Rita will continue to receive this permanent rental assistance, advocacy, and resources to address issues around chronic homelessness, domestic violence, parenting, and increased self-sufficiency. We are grateful to our generous donors who make success such as “Rita’s” possible.

- A pseudonym name was used to protect her identity 

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