“Grateful to God that we came here!”

Evelyn was collecting social security benefits and operating a produce truck to support herself and three of her children. Then the unthinkable happened. “I was trying to make the extra money we needed for food and laundry and to pay the bills,” she says. “But since I was self-employed, the IRS thought I was making more money than I was claiming. So they cut my benefits and I ended up losing my apartment.”

Evelyn and her children wound up living on the streets for a month. “We’d rent a motel room every third day so we could shower and rest. But the other two nights, we were just outside, at the park or the library,” she says. “My youngest daughter was feeling the pressure and began cutting herself.”

Eventually, Evelyn’s older daughter found refuge at a Ventura shelter, her son moved in with friends, and she and her younger daughter moved into an L.A. shelter.

However, Evelyn’s health issues – fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, and depression – hindered her from complying with the shelter’s program requirements and she and her daughter had to leave. “I was on the streets with my 13-year-old daughter for about a month,” she says. “My other daughter came from Ventura to be with me…and my son came to the streets with me just to be supportive.”

Evelyn had put their names on shelter waiting lists and gone to interviews, but to no avail. Finally, L.A. Housing referred her to Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission’s Genesis House Emergency Shelter, which could bring in the entire family. “I’m very grateful to God that we came here,” Evelyn says. “We have a beautiful place to come and sleep and cook, make a cup of coffee, shower.” ­

The Mission has also provided blankets, cleaning supplies, toiletries, coupons for new shoes, and referrals to schools and food banks. “They help us with everything we need,” Evelyn says.

Since coming here, Evelyn’s younger daughter has been able to go back to eighth grade. “She didn’t go to school for a couple of months and she fell behind,” Evelyn says. “She’s brought her grades up in two months, and she’s going to be able to graduate.”

Evelyn’s social security has been straightened out and she will be getting her benefits again, meaning her family can move back into their own apartment. But she’ll never forget what Genesis House has done for them. “I’m very grateful for all the love, support and opportunity they’ve given us,” she says. “­They gave us a home when we needed it most.”

To read the rest of the issue of Sharing Hope, click here