Her New Life: When Irene’s husband shot her in front of their three young children, “I thought all of our lives had ended,” she said.
Until then, “We had our problems like any other couple, but I always thought we would work through them,” said Irene (not her real name).
“He had been having problems at his job and was drinking too much. He took his stress out on me. One day in January, 2008, things got to be too much. He pulled out a gun and shot me in front of the children.
“After a week in the hospital and a stay at a domestic violence shelter, I took my children and moved in with my parents. I was depressed and scared. I had little work experience and was broke. My parents helped as much as they could but we couldn’t go on living with them forever.”
Then she found out about Transition House family shelter, which not only offers a refuge but works to help families get back on their feet. “Thankfully, the staff and volunteers understood that I needed to focus on counseling for my kids and myself,” she explained in a December mailer from Transition House.
“Finally, my husband was sentenced to 15 years in prison. I didn’t have to live in fear anymore. My life began again, but it was beginning in a shelter with no way to support myself.” Her husband had never wanted Irene to work outside the home.
“I could have lost hope-I think many times I did-but Transition House was willing to invest in me. If their program was only a short shelter stay, I wouldn’t have made it. But their long-term program gave me the time to work through the tragedy and begin to focus on myself and my kids and how we would support ourselves.
“In those first few months at the shelter I found part-time work cleaning the homes of others. I knew this wouldn’t be enough to become completely independent but I had to start somewhere.” Her case manager helped her design business cards and pick up more work and they worked on a savings plan. “I saved every dollar I could.”
Then Transition House allowed the family to move to its second stage shelter, Firehouse. “Instead of looking at my past as a stay-at-home mom as a failure, (the staff) looked at how that experience and my skills could be used to earn a living.
“The thing I did best was to care for others. I took that skill and turned it into a job. I found work doing home care and now I have a client I work for regularly. Ultimately, I want to complete a degree as a certified nursing assistant.
“There is a great need for CNAs. In order to complete the program I am working on perfecting my English by taking classes in ESL at both Transition House and at the high school. With the increase in my income and a solid plan for the future, I qualified to move into one of Transition House’s apartments.
“Now that we have our own place, my kids and I can truly let go of the past. My savings are growing and I have peace of mind seeing my kids do well in school and knowing I can keep a roof over their heads. I still have the support of my parents but I also have the support of a huge family-that is, my case manager and all the staff at Transition House.
“And everyone in Santa Barbara who supports them.”
Merry Christmas, Irene and children.
To donate to Transition House, send checks to the shelter at 425 E. Cota St., 93101, or donate on line, www.transitionhouse.com.
Barney Brantingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (805) 965-5205, Ext. 230. He writes online columns and a print column on Thursdays