Stories that Inspire.


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Maria plans to help others after graduation

Maria is working on her GED.

Maria is working on her GED.

She was living on the streets before her arrival

“It wasn’t a really good childhood,” Maria recalled. After relocating from Mexico to Santa Maria at the age of 7, Maria and her family – 10 people in total – lived in a single hotel room for 10 years. Maria’s mom and dad worked in the fields and the local fish factory to pay bills.

Maria was also molested by her grandfather, a secret she never told her parents. “He had such a good reputation,” Maria said. “I was afraid that no one would believe me.”

At 14, Maria became pregnant with her first daughter. Maria dropped out of high school, feeling “uncomfortable” about attending while pregnant, instead working in the fields full-time to support herself and her child.

After Maria’s mother sent her to Illinois to live with her older sister, she married and had three more children. Her husband introduced her to cocaine. Upon their separation, Maria and her children moved back to California to live with her parents. While Maria stopped using cocaine, she started using methamphetamines, and a cycle of sobriety, relapse, and homelessness began, propelled by the death of her father.

Even though Maria was only sleeping a block away from the Mission, it was Maria’s son who connected Maria with the program. “I remember he called me, and I told him where I was at. He said, ‘Why are you in the streets? I’m going to call places to see if they can take you’,” Maria said. “He called me back and said, ‘I have a place where you can stay, mom. You need to call Celia (Gonzales, women’s Program Manager). But it’s a 10-month program. I support you, but you need to commit and stay there’.”

Maria admitted that it took a few days for her to go to the Mission. “I was scared. I don’t do well socially,” said Maria. Once in the program, the transition was difficult. “I went from being isolated to being around people all the time.”

Maria recalled a conversation she had with Celia when she wanted to leave the program. “She asked if I remembered what it was like for me on the streets. She reminded me that I have a safe place, people who care for me, and that my kids love me. She’s the reason I’m still here.”

Maria is working through some root causes of her addiction, like abuse and her father’s death.

While in program, Maria received her first Bible and was recently baptized. “Getting closer to God made me want to change my life,” she said. “It made me want to help other people change their lives.”

Maria is excited to go back to school to get her GED and has already enrolled in classes at Allan Hancock College. After graduation, she wants to focus on helping others, perhaps in homeless outreach or case management.

“This program has changed the way I live and brought me closer to my children. I have people here that care for me, that I can rely on, that encourage me. I’m so thankful. I’m so happy that I’m here.”

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