By Steve McRee
Homelessness doesn’t always appear as the man covered in newspapers, sleeping on a park bench; or as the person on the corner next to a shopping cart or backpack holding everything they own, asking those who pass by for spare change.
According to the Department of Education and the most recent Census data:
- Women with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.
- 1 in 30 children is currently homeless.
But those statistics don’t even count the struggling families who are living “doubled-up” with family or friends, like Joann* and her daughter Rylee*…
Two years ago, Joann began her quest to change her life. She wanted to find a better job — but to do that, she needed a car. To save money, she and her 6-year-old daughter Rylee rented a room in a friend’s apartment.
Joann’s 11-year-old son Logan* had been living with his dad. Shortly after Joann rented the new room, Logan’s dad dropped him off, saying he could no longer care for him. But Joann’s friend said that it would be too many people for 1 room. So Joann and her kids were forced to move out.
They moved in with Joann’s aunt for 6 months until Logan could return to his dad. But in the meantime, Joann was at the end of her rope. She’d been addicted to painkillers for 25 years. “I realized I can’t do this anymore. I was struggling and I wasn’t being honest.”
Joann and Rylee moved in with Joann’s mom, into a 1-bedroom apartment. “We slept on the floor, just trying to make due,” she remembers.
Despite the difficult living situation, Joann was ready to make a change. She came clean to her whole family and began the hard work of getting sober.
Joann remembers what a difficult time it was, trying to detox and put the broken pieces of her life back together again. “At first I thought I could pick up the pieces really quickly just by finding work — but the wreckage involved so many things. I made a ginormous mess that I needed to clean up.” And in the meantime, the tight living space was starting to take a toll on her relationship with her mom.
They moved yet again, into her cousin’s garage add-on. It wasn’t ideal, but it gave them a place to live while Joann tried to clean up her life.
Joann was on the lookout for an affordable place to live, but had to take time off work when Rylee severely broke her leg. She eventually found a great job in downtown Livermore, but still couldn’t afford the high cost of housing for even a small apartment or room in a house.
She’s far from alone. In our community, a single mom would need to earn $30.48 per hour in order to afford a modest 2-bedroom apartment at fair market value. Working minimum wage, she would need to work 3.4 full-time jobs, 52 weeks a year.The gap between wages and rent is so high that for many people, stable housing remains out of reach.
Joann was working hard to keep her sobriety and rebuild her life, but she was beginning to feel completely deflated because she couldn’t find a place to live.
That’s when she saw a Facebook post about our Working Women’s Program! She called Shepherd’s Gate right away.
“I knew I needed help. I was trying to do the right thing but struggling with so many difficulties and nowhere to live. Shepherd’s Gate gave me hope and allowed me to take the next steps in cleaning up the wreckage of my addiction,” She told us.
Since coming to Shepherd’s Gate, Joann has begun working full-time. She paid off debt and was able to save money for housing and emergencies. She has also gifted a car!
Best of all, she was able to save the deposit she needed to rent 2 bedrooms in a house in Livermore for herself and her kids. She moved on July 1st!
Joann and her family are just one example of how the Working Women’s Program is changing lives for the better. Without your help, Joann and her daughter would have remained functionally homeless, moving from place to place. But today they have a home of their own!
It’s all because of your support, your generosity, and your prayers. Thank you!