Frank, a single father of two (Fantastic – 7 years old and Famous – 5 years old) were referred to Banyan House via the Alameda County Social Services Agency Office. The family had been living with various friends and family members in the area whom they could no longer stay with. Frank had initially approached the County for homeless assistance, as they were weeks away from becoming literally homeless. Frank was already on the wait lists for the only two other shelters in the County which served single fathers, and was told it could be as long as a five month waiting period!
Sarah Vares, FESCO’s Housing Specialist, met with Frank, prior to his family’s entry into Banyan House, to assess his eligibility for the Linkages Program. Frank had steady employment income as a Peer Mentor, but just could not manage to save enough for needed move-in costs.
During Frank’s short stay at Banyan House, he took advantage of counseling services and was actively engaged in conversations during parent groups. He also managed to save enough money to move into permanent housing without the subsidy support of Linkages. Frank’s comment on his exit survey reads “Thank you for bringing hope and positive change for my family”.
Jessica is a 31 year old single mother with a six year old son. Three years ago she lost the job that she had for eight years and could no longer afford to pay her rent. She began to panic when her car broke down about the same time and she could not afford to pay to have it repaired. Jessica applied to temporary shelters but was denied any kind of housing until she was referred to FESCO. After being accepted at Banyan house, her living situation, along with her outlook for her future changed immediately. Through FESCO staff, she learned budget and savings strategies, got her son into childcare, began volunteering at a local grocery store, and began her job search. After four months, she was hired on full time at the grocery store and was able to start saving money to rebuild her life. Soon after, Jessica was able to move into a home of her own. She credits FESCO with helping her to move toward self sufficiency saying “the workshops, counseling, and classes…have given me the confidence to maintain a normal, happy life”.
Trinity has four boys between the ages of one and nine, and has the sympathy of mothers everywhere. As much of a challenge as raising four sons might be by itself, Trinity has also had to overcome incredible difficulties just to find a secure and healthy environment for her children. A Banyan House resident since February, Trinity grew up in a tough neighborhood and had troubles with drug addiction early on.
“I hit rock bottom in my life. I was in recovery for a year, before going back to live with my mom. That was definitely a bad decision, going back to that horrible environment. Everyone was using drugs, and my living place was just trash, just plain trash. I definitely did not want to raise my children there.” She started her search to find a shelter to live in and after many rejections from other agencies she found FESCO and entered the Les Marquis House.
She quickly moved into Banyan House with her boys and was able to create a stable environment for her family. Besides working two part time jobs she will be returning to college this Fall to continue her studies. Trinity aspires to teach as a college English professor. She turned out to be an an extraordinarily bright, straight-A student sporting a 4.0 grade-point average.
Betty moved into the Les Marquis Shelter unemployed. She immediately started applying for jobs and quickly started working at the Front Porch, a newspaper subscription agency, in Hayward. She and her daughter moved into FESCO’s transitional program, Banyan House, where she participated in the Life Skills classes and assisted staff with cooking and cleaning.
Less than a year after leaving Banyan House she had to return to the Shelter after losing her job, but she soon found work at another company. She is currently working for an energy company, where she is receiving employee benefits for the first time since being homeless. She has lived in her current apartment for four years. Her daughter is married and taking classes at the Hayward Adult School. During her lifetime she has overcome many setbacks, but through hard work and perseverance, she has made a better life for herself and her family.
Lanita came to the Les Marquis House with her three small children. While living at the Shelter, she took classes to become certified as a CNA and LVN and worked as a Medical Assistant in Pleasanton at night. She would push her two younger children in a stroller while her oldest son would skate board as they walked to the BART station to go to work.
She would take the children to child care while she was working at night and pick them up after her shift. They would return to the Shelter in the morning and get ready for school that day. Once the children were at school she would take a short rest, do all her chores, run errands, then pick up her children after school only to do it all over again.
She never complained or missed a day of work. She wore through 3 strollers during the time she was at the Shelter. Lanita became a favorite among the staff with her “can do” attitude. When other clients thought their obstacles could not be conquered, they would be told the story of “a lady named Lanita.” She is now employed with Kaiser and working toward her Nursing License.
Manuel lost both of his parents as a child, and his unstable upbringing led him to drugs and prison. When he went to prison, he lost custody of his children. Upon his release from prison in 2007, he became focused on maintaining his sobriety and getting his children back into his life. Banyan House offered a sufficiently stable living environment for Child Protective Services to give him custody of his daughter and visitation with his son.
While at Banyan, Manuel studied counseling at Merritt College full time, took all the on-call work he could, got his daughter and himself to school every day, picked up his son from Richmond and returned him every weekend—all on public transit. He stayed on his budget and accumulated savings. He was an effective resident council chairperson. He was active in his recovery and attended outside counseling, in addition to participating in all the life skills classes offered at FESCO. He completed 18 units toward his AA degree and has maintained a 3.0 average.
All of Manuel’s hard work earned him a spot in the Jobs/Housing Linkages Program. This program provides a rent subsidy for up to two years for formerly homeless families now renting in the private housing market. Participants must be on a path, through employment and schooling, to earn sufficient income to pay the full rent by the time the subsidy expires. In July, Manuel received three things he had worked long and hard for.
The first was a certificate from Child Protective Services for achievement in his reunification, recognizing his complete cooperation and endurance with the process. The second was an invitation from CPS to train with them in a nine-month program and come to work for CPS as a Parent Advocate. As honored as he was by these, the third thing was the most important of all to Manuel: he was awarded full custody of his son.