Rachel* speaks quietly, often times with tears in her eyes. Her little daughters, Jesse, 3 years old and Megan, 4, sit nearby, smiling and chatting while they play with their toys. The girls never seem to notice their mother’s tears as they ask her to clasp their toy jewelry or give them a drink.
Rachel has a troubled past, checkered with domestic violence from childhood onward.
At 13, she was left alone at night while her mother worked. She started a relationship with a boyfriend who was physically and emotionally abusive.
Working was very important to Rachel as her mother was never allowed to work. Within a few years, Rachel held two jobs, including one as an assistant store manager. She was able to rent an apartment, bought a used car and then became pregnant.
With her abusive boyfriend in and out of prison and dealing with her own drug abuse, Rachel lost both jobs. She was sleeping in her broken down car with her young daughters for a week. Their only belongings were in the trunk, along with some peanut butter and a loaf of bread. Homeless for the first time ever, she was very afraid. Even more so, she was determined to break the cycle of abuse on behalf of her daughters.
A determined young woman, Rachel made her way with the girls to the Family Housing Hub in Phoenix thinking they would recommend her to a shelter. After careful evaluation of her circumstances and potential, they instead recommended her for the Rapid Re-Housing program for those who are homeless but have previously lived independently. All of that hard work over the years paid off as Rachel and the girls came to La Mesita Family Homeless Shelter while waiting for a Rapid Re-Housing apartment to open up. They were finally safe.
At La Mesita, Rachel met with her Case Manager immediately and had focus meetings on a regular basis to ensure success during her four month stay in a brand new one bedroom apartment. She gratefully received some food, bus passes and basic living necessities while learning about benefits available to her. With the assistance of the Workforce Coordinator, she was able to secure a new job and have her girls enter a day care program.
“This is a blessing. La Mesita is a safe place. I have structure, stability and know what I should do to be safe. It took me away from the hell I was in,” said Rachel, “the staff helped me to calm down and pushed me to do better. I am healing myself.
“My 4 year old Megan has opened up. She had become very quiet but now she is friends with the staff here. La Mesita has changed our lives. I am a better mom, doing what I should do. I ended up homeless and coming to La Mesita is the best thing that happened to me. I have found strength, encouragement and courage by being here. The staff became our family, they don’t leave anyone behind.
“I work in a Call Center now and I am looking for a better job. My goal is to get my GED and become a phlebotomist so I can make good money and have stability for my girls.”
Rachel and her family have recently moved onward and upward into a Rapid Re-Housing apartment of their own.
“I can’t thank the staff at La Mesita enough,” Rachel passionately says, “I care about La Mesita and want to get to a place where I can give back.”
*Names have been changed to protect the family’s identity.