“When I was ten, my dad became disabled. That changed everything. Our family of five bounced around a lot. We stayed at several shelters and slept on floors. It wasn’t all that stable. My parents had no substance issues, just a lack of income and a set of circumstances that they didn’t expect. With disabilities, it was just tough to support me and my two brothers. My parents didn’t know how to navigate us to safety and then, somehow, they found His House (now called HIS-OC). I don’t know how they found the program because I was ten. What I did know was that HIS-OC was so much better than the other places we had stayed. In the other shelters, we were sometimes in a room with 20 other people we did not know. I had to hold onto my belongings so that someone would not steal them. It didn’t feel safe.
I remember that for me staying at the shelter (HIS-OC) was pleasant and it felt like we were OK there. Cleaning day was fun. There was a set day of the week when everyone would clean. there were two other kids our age that lived in the shelter when we did. The five of us turned cleaning into a game. I remember getting very close with the other families there and once we graduated the program and lived on our own, one of the families stayed with us sometimes. We helped each other.
For us, the shelter was just a place where we stayed and other families stayed there too. We didn’t question it much. My parents tried to hide the details of being homeless and so I don’t think we realized exactly why we were there. I remember that there was a huge table we all ate at. We cooked at the same time but ate different meals with our families at a community table. Another core memory I have is that after the cleaning day, we would gather around the TV to watch WWE. The boys would take sheets off the bed, and act out the WWE moves.
Having experienced kindness and being given a safe place to get back on our feet . . . made me more compassionate toward others. I believe it shaped me as a person. If I come across someone in need I want to help them and provide them with some direction. My family experienced compassion and guidance. I want to let people who are struggling know that there are people who care.
It took me a long time to realize that it wasn’t a choice for my parents. They wound up in financial trouble and they needed a way to get back on their feet.”
Jessica’s story is similar to the stories of many families that come to stay with us. Jessica contacted us to ask if she could volunteer with HIS-OC and when we asked her how she found out about HIS-OC, she told us who she was and how 28 years later she was doing just fine.
It was a wonderful early Christmas present to hear from her. Your support helps us show families like Jessica’s that there are people who care.