The loss of ones children to the foster care system is a devastating experience, often a low point in the life of a homeless mother. This is Jessic'a story.....
From the time I was a teen-ager, life was difficult. My mother lacked the means to support us and was evicted from the apartment we were living in. Not knowing where to turn, I took to the streets, staying with friends and relatives for brief periods of time. While living this precarious lifestyle, I gave birth to two children who were eventually placed in foster care. Getting my children back provided the motivation I needed to change my lifestyle. My older sister learned about Good Shepherd Center through an online search and encouraged me to call. I called Languille Emergency Shelter the next morning and was relieved to learn that they had a bed available.
After 10 weeks at Languille, I moved into Hawkes Transitional Residence. I felt hopeful and supported knowing that Good Shepherd Center encourages reunification of families. During my stay at Good Shepherd Center I continued to go to court to try to get custody of my children, but in order to gain custody, I needed to provide them with stable housing. In December 2015, after only two weeks at Hawkes, I moved into Farley House, Good Shepherd Center’s home for women and children. After this move, I was granted permission for my children to visit. I was granted custody a month later and the children moved into Farley House to live with me.
Although custody was foremost on my mind from the very beginning, I also made great progress in achieving my goal of supporting myself and my children financially. With the help of Vocational Rehabilitation, I completed training to become a security guard. Living at Languille was an eye opener for me and a motivator. My case manager stressed the importance of looking for a job, saving money, securing an apartment, and staying on track to complete these goals. I was able to accomplish all of this. In addition, I attended Life Skills classes and found that the nutrition and parenting classes were especially helpful. My children and I moved into our very own apartment in March 2016. I am grateful to Good Shepherd Center for the support I received to reunify with my children and to transition to a more stable, independent life. I will continue to receive support through Good Shepherd Center's aftercare program.
My daughter, Chilah and I, graduated from the GSC program in 2013. Leaving Minnesota had finally proven to be a smart move for us. After two years at Good Shepherd Center, going through the culinary arts training program at The Village Kitchen and the Department of Aging (DOA) training program, I was more confident and in a better financial position to claim a life of independence. Chilah had been working at Universal Studios for two years and we agreed to pool our resources and get a nice apartment together.
It has been three years since we graduated from the program and we have maintained permanent housing. I sincerely doubt that I could have done it without the help of the terrific staff at Good Shepherd Center. I also recognize that being successful was dependent on putting forth a lot of effort into the program and what it had to offer. While a resident at Good Shepherd Center, I attended all the life skills classes that were offered, going into them with the attitude that I would get a lot out of them, and I was never disappointed. I knew that what I was doing up to that point wasn't working and I attended classes and workshops with an open mind. If you want to change your life, you need to respect yourself enough to know that you need help, ask for help, and receive the help that is offered to you. Thank you Good Shepherd Center angels.
The Village Kitchen, a cafe bakery that is open to the public, offers culinary arts training for residents of Good Shepherd Center. Through hands on experience, women obtain the skills and confidence needed to become gainfully employed. Here is the story of Holly Green, a graduate of The Village Kitchen, in her own words.
When my son Magic and I moved into Good Shepherd Center on August 7, 2014, we breathed a sigh of relief. Our journey had not been an easy one! Magic was born on October 10, 2002, weighing only one pound. His needs were great from the very beginning. Precious as he was, I was not surprised when in the third grade he was diagnosed with ADHD.
As a two time survivor of domestic violence, it was sometimes a struggle to care for myself and my son. In 2011, I had a good job as an apartment manager in Long Beach. While I was at work, my abuser showed up, causing problems. As a result, I lost both my job and my apartment. Magic and I went to stay at a domestic violence shelter and from there found our way to Los Angeles. It wasn’t long before we were on skid row, alone and frightened. From the very first day we arrived at Good Shepherd Center, it proved to be a safe haven for us.
Soon after Magic and I arrived at Good Shepherd Center, he was diagnosed with autism. I read the books that Kristy, the Children’s Program Coordinator, gave me on autism and followed up on referrals for assistance. I attended the life skills and parenting classes, learning all I could about how to improve our lives and followed up on leads for housing. In the past, children were not always kind to Magic but at Good Shepherd Center it was different. He made friends easily. He went on field trips and socialization activities with the other families. He really felt part of something special.
In November 2014, Magic and I moved into our very own apartment but did not say good-bye to Good Shepherd Center. We were invited to attend the Homeless No More gala on February 21st. I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak at the gala; to share my experiences from homelessness to self-sufficiency and to let others know how Good Shepherd Center made a positive impact on our lives. We will be forever grateful for the love and support we received.
Project Achieve, a program of Catholic Charities, and a multi-service center with a 60 day emergency shelter, referred me to Good Shepherd Center in May 2013. I was a mess. I had been living on the streets, in parks, and in homeless shelters for the past few years and I had a misdemeanor for drug possession. The staff at GSC made me feel as though I was “in God’s hands.”
During my time at both Languille Emergency Shelter and Hawkes Transitional Residence, I was always grateful for the staff that “ran a tight ship” but also had compassion and never made me feel less than. During my short stay at the emergency shelter, I was able to complete my community service and enroll in the culinary arts training program at Good Shepherd Center’s—The Village Kitchen (TVK). I especially loved the team work I experienced while working there. Ali, the Chef Manager, has the “patience of gold.”
As a graduate of the TVK program, I applied for several jobs, and am proud to be working at TiGeorges, a Haitian Restaurant located in Eco Park. It was important for me to get a job where I could use the skills I learned while working at TVK.
I have been able to save money while living at GSC and although I am grateful for the support and services, I am looking forward to getting my own apartment. My goal has always been to save up and move out. It’s time to move on.
After years of uncertainty I experienced a glimmer of hope when, in the fall of 2008, my three children and I came to live at Good Shepherd Center’s Angel Guardian Home. I grew up in this area, came from a good home and many times passed Good Shepherd Center on my way to school. Admiring its beauty, I never suspected that it was a homeless shelter and never once expected that one day I would come to live here. I also never thought I would be a victim of domestic violence.
Violence was not something I was willing to tolerate, so in 1999, with three children to consider, I left my abuser. Although it wasn't easy I managed to support us while earning a degree in healthcare management. But nine years later, after going on medical leave for depression and eventually losing my job due to widespread layoffs, I decided to reconcile with my children’s father once again. This time the abuse became more intense and fearful for my life and the safety of my children, we left once again. Without a job and means to support my family, I felt hopeless and depressed. I was reluctant to let friends know that we were homeless and so many nights we slept in our car. Parked in front of a "beautiful mansion" that I later learned was GSC's Historic House, we felt safe.
After the divorce from my husband I found myself in what seemed to be an impossible situation. We had a business and a life together and now both had ended abruptly. With nowhere else to turn I connected with a homelessness case worker and from there was referred to Good Shepherd Center. From my very first encounter with the staff at GSC, I was never treated like a homeless person. In fact, they treated me like a queen. The program has a fantastic entrance and exit plan if you are serious about getting your life back on track. During my nine month stay, I took advantage of the various workshops and trainings that were offered and obtained credentials such as a CPR certificate.
Shortly after I came to stay at GSC, I secured a job as a receptionist. Once I was employed it gave me the drive I needed to obtain my insurance license and a security guard card which I consider my "cushion." Today I have my own apartment and maintain full-time employment. I commend you Good Shepherd for the love and special care that you give to women and children. We are always treated with the utmost respect and dignity.
In 2008 Maria was working as a claims examiner and her daughter Chilah was working for AT&T. When the economic downfall left both mother and daughter without a job and little hope of finding one in Minnesota, it seemed like the perfect time to move to Los Angeles where Chilah could pursue her dream of an acting career.
The hotel where they stayed proved to be more expensive than anticipated and their savings were quickly diminished. Since they had no income they were forced to find another place to live. The manager was kind enough to take them to a shelter on Skid Row which proved to be a frightening experience for both of them. Through an online service and TBN, (a Christian broadcasting television show), Maria & Chilah were fortunate enough to find a family that took them into their home until they could find jobs. They stayed with this family for the next 7 months.
I came from a healthy, happy home. I had a good job as a massage therapist and intentions of becoming an acupuncturist. When I broke up with my boyfriend of 14 years, I decided to move to California to start over. Once in Los Angeles, I learned that my license to practice as a massage therapist was not honored here and that you need a separate license for each city in which you plan to work. Realizing the expense involved in getting licensed again, I began to look for work. When my resources ran out and I could not find a job, I found a place to stay at Union Rescue Mission. This was the first time I had ever experienced homelessness.
While staying at Union Rescue, I learned about the culinary arts training program through Good Shepherd Center. I expressed an interest to my case manager and was given a referral to Hawkes Transitional Residence in hopes of participating in the training program at The Village Kitchen. I moved into Hawkes in July of 2011 and began working in The Village Kitchen soon after. In October 2011 I graduated from the program and began working at a restaurant on the USC campus. In January I was promoted to team leader and am now the Kitchen Manager. Now that I have steady employment my next goal is to get an apartment.