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.