HELPING HAND: Barbara, Angel, and Estevan have a message for you — about how they faced homelessness but through hard work they succeeded. Now they’re in college. Others might have given up, but at the depth of their despair, they got a helping hand at Transition House family shelter.
At a time when the world seems colder, they inspired me. I hope they’ll inspire you, too.
“We come from three different families,” they wrote in a public message. “At different points during our childhoods, our families became homeless and moved into Transition House’s emergency shelter.
“Each of us, along with our brothers and sisters, faced the challenges that all homeless kids face. Children who are homeless get sick four times as often as housed children. They have three times as many emotional and behavioral issues.
“And children who experience homelessness are twice as likely to have to repeat a grade, be expelled, get suspended from school, or drop out of high school. Even though we were once homeless, we beat those odds.”
Here are their stories:
ANGEL: “I was 9 when I came to Transition House. That was 12 years ago. In lots of ways, I grew up in the program. Today, I am on the staff and work in the emergency shelter.
“Many of the volunteers were college-aged. They had a huge impact on me — they encouraged me to think about going to college. In my family, we didn’t have the money for college — it wasn’t part of our extended family’s experience or tradition.
“After we moved to our own apartment, I spent every evening I could in the computer lab at Transition House. We didn’t have a computer at home. Having access to the computer was life-changing. I became interested in how computers work, and that interest helped me academically.
“After high school, I became the first person in my family to ever attend college. I am at Santa Barbara City College studying linguistics. I’d like one day to work as an interpreter and translator, assisting people in need. I hope to transfer to UCSD to finish my degree.
“I also love my job at Transition House. I tell kids … ‘See what happened with my family? We succeeded. Your family can, too!’”
BARBARA: “My mom and my two younger sisters and I came to Transition House when I was 17. I did not want to be there. I felt so empty, so alone. But the shelter was better than the situation we had to leave, so I tried to look at the positive things in our life, including the fact that we were finally creating a life of our own.
“At the time that we came to the shelter, I didn’t think we had anyone in our lives we could count on, but I learned that we could count on the people who worked at Transition House.
“Our family now lives in an apartment owned by Transition House. While I always had the dream of going to college, I thought maybe I should work instead and help my mom with expenses. She wouldn’t hear of it!
“Instead, I am following my dream. I am a student at UCSB majoring in global studies and Spanish. I also work at the Isla Vista Children’s Center. My 15-year-old sister attends Santa Barbara High and is taking GATE classes. My 8-year-old sister is an excellent reader.”
ESTEVAN: “I was 16 when my mom and my sisters and I entered the shelter. I was embarrassed to be there, but I soon realized that the volunteers and staff didn’t judge us.
“When we lost our housing, we moved around and stayed with various friends for a while. During that time, I felt the prejudice some people have for those who are poor — I could see it in the way people looked at us. They didn’t respect us.
“I struggled in school. At the shelter, things changed. I decided to start doing my homework. I switched to San Marcos for 10th grade, and the new school made all the difference for me.
“We now have our own housing. And I am taking courses at SBCC and plan to finish the culinary arts program there. After that, I want to go to a UC school and study Spanish so that one day I might become a teacher.”
(For donations to Transition House, go to transitionhouse.com.)
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