My name is Elizabeth and I am a single mother of four kids ages 15, 10, 8 and 1. The oldest are boys and my 1-year-old is a beautiful little girl. We became homeless in September 2014. I was in an abusive relationship and my only option to get out was to leave with whatever I could fit in my four-door sedan.
I was unemployed and did not receive any child support or government assistance. My family would only help by letting my boys sleep at my brother’s place. My daughter and I had to sleep in the car. I would drive around until she fell asleep then I would find a dark spot for us to park for the night.
It was heartbreaking for me. I couldn’t believe what my life had become. I knew I was not going to let that be my reality so I quickly set out to find help and did what I could to help myself.
I attended the South County Outreach Computer Learning Lab, having found out about this valuable resource through the Irvine One Stop center. I had been unemployed for quite some time after taking a buyout from a company where I had worked for approximately 20 years.
When the recession hit, it hit me hard. In my prior employment I always had a secretarial assistant who devised Excel charts, edited long drafts, formatted documents, prepared labels, and did all the myriad tasks an office assistant performs. There I was. The way of the world had changed around me, even high-level executives were now creating their own Excel documents and were proficient in Word.
Help for me came in the form of the Learning Lab. Not only was the content of the workbooks so outstanding, combining readable understandable information, included were remedial sections, clear diagrams and most of all practical examples of the computer program we were learning.
I moved to Orange County from San Francisco with my son who was six at the time and my fiancée of five years when he got a great job offer and we relocated our entire lives here.
Not even two years after moving, our relationship abruptly ended and I found myself homeless with no money. I did not work while we were together because he liked me being at home. So, here I was homeless, no money, no family in the area, no car and a broken heart. I was absolutely lost.
My first challenge was obtaining my own vehicle. A friend sold me one at an extremely fair price and I quickly got a job at Starbucks. My second challenge was feeding myself and my son. I had never used any type of assistance before but I put my pride aside and did what I needed to do.
Some say, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” That statement couldn’t be truer in my case. To see me today, one could never imagine the journey I have been on to get here.
Four years ago, I had a job, a secure place to live and my third child. As the economy took a downturn so did life as I knew it. Like many others, I found myself unemployed due to a layoff. Also like many others, I found myself without a stable home for my children. With the help of family and other non-profit agencies in the area, my children and I were able to survive, but still no closer to being self-sufficient.
When my family and I were accepted into the program with South County Outreach, I was in a bad place. I still hadn’t been able to secure a stable job or home for my children. I’d lost my confidence and felt like a failure.
David was born in the Philippines and was raised by his grandparents during his early years. When he was 14, his family migrated to Orange County. He graduated from high school in went on to earn a associate’s degree in accounting and a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology.
David married his wife who also had a bachelor’s degree and they started a business and worked hard before moving on to other jobs. They are a traditional family, with three daughters and a son, and they place a high value on education. All the children are engaged in extracurricular activities and work hard at their studies.
Last Christmas, David was laid off from his job and there had been nothing but closed doors for four or five months – he was unable to find work. His wife had resigned from her job when David was making enough for her to stay home to care for their four children. The family went through their entire emergency savings and eventually lost their home and moved into an apartment.
Marie, a single mother with three children, came to South County Outreach in need of rental assistance. Marie is a long-time South County resident and has been working with the same employer for more than 11 years. She has struggled financially from time to time as many single mothers do, but has always been able to make ends meet.
An unexpected and expensive car repair was needed and Marie was left without enough money to pay rent. Unable to borrow from family or friends, she sought out assistance and found South County Outreach. Michelle was hesitant to call for rental assistance, as she has never been in this situation before and was embarrassed that she needed help.
After receiving rental assistance at South County Outreach, Michelle shared her appreciation in the following letter: