“I was working two jobs just to make the rent at $875 a month, and then the landlord raised it to $1,400,” Carmen says. “And then COVID hit.” Carmen’s home health care company cut her hours because of the risk to clients. If paying her rent was once a struggle, it was now an impossibility. “I couldn’t do it alone.”
“While I was struggling, COVID hit and it hit me right back down. That’s when I became homeless,” Carmen explains.
“I started paying for hotel rooms—the cheapest bed bug places. It’s not a safe place at these hotels with kids.” But soon, she couldn’t afford even the cheapest hotel rooms for herself and her three teenagers. “We started staying in our car. My depression got really bad and I was coping by drinking.”
When Carmen turned to her parents for help, they slept on the living room floor in a trailer already packed full with family. Her frustration and depression soon showed up in her kids too as the constant instability rattled them. Desperate, Carmen turned her kids over to family with emergency custody and found help at Solutions for Change.
She says it’s the best decision she’s ever made. And that decision prepared her for the day an even worse blow hit. “I’ll never forget it was ‘double scrub day’ [at Solutions for Change] when I got the call from Scripps Encinitas. The doctor said, ‘we have to pump her stomach.’” While Carmen’s daughter was staying with her dad, he took a job out of state, leaving her alone. The 16-year-old tried to take her life.
“I felt like a failure as a mother,” says Carmen. “It’s so hard.”
But Carmen is changing the narrative with her kids at Solutions for Change. Since becoming a single mom at age 15, she’s worked hard, persevering through high school and two years of college. Now, her dream is to finish school and become a phlebotomist. And her kids are her biggest cheerleaders. “They know my program and they keep me on it. They act like my parents!”
“I feel so blessed every morning that I wake up here,” says Carmen. “My daughter feels not alone anymore.” And so does Carmen.
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