When Ascencia clients M and R moved into Ascencia’s 40-bed emergency shelter last October, they let out a big sigh of relief. Mom M and Dad R, together with their 2 year old daughter E and their 12 year old son E, had been living on the streets, in the family’s minivan for about a month.
For this Armenian-American family who left Iran in 2001, homelessness in 2014 was hardly the bright future they had envisioned for their children.
In that first year in America, with no family, M and R came to La Crescenta, drawn to the large Armenian community nearby. Mom M and dad R, no different from any loving parents, want the very best for their children. “I wanted to make sure that my children can have the American dream,” says M. So she and her husband settled their family in Glendale, hoping that education in the Glendale Unified School District would be just the thing to open the doors of opportunity for her children. The children enrolled in good schools, made friends. The family’s lives, though not filled with plenty, were sufficient to fill their needs.
That is, until her husband’s mental illness became so severe, he was unable to work and support the family. So M took on the care of her husband and the children and she took on a full-time job too. And life went on, with the family making do with a lot less.
But finally last year, M got the bad news that her employer would be changing her day shift to the night shift. M knew that with young children in the home, this would be impossible. And when she couldn’t find another job, and her family’s income dropped to about $1,800 a month, rent in the apartment the family had lived in for the past four years became impossible. The family was evicted.
Since the Great Recession, many of us can count how many months away our families are from homelessness. This year, Federal poverty guidelines for a family of four is $24,250, or about $2,000 per month. Two grand a month to pay for rent, utilities, food and the daily, weekly and monthly expenses of raising happy, healthy children. The conventional standard for housing affordability is 30% of income spent on housing expenditures. So for a family of four with $2,000 a month in income, rent exceeding $600 a month poses a significant imbalance to their family budget. Safe, affordable housing for a family of four at $600 a month; it begs the question whether this is even possible in Glendale.
M and R have found out that $600 a month for a two bedroom apartment in Glendale is not possible. Next month they exit our year-round emergency shelter and move into an apartment in Van Nuys.
M is grateful for the time in our shelter, which allowed the family to get off the streets and catch their breath, to receive counseling, art therapy and tutoring for the children, and delicious nutritious meals, all while saving up a little money too. She’s also grateful for the supportive services provided by our expert staff who connected the family to benefits they desperately needed.
Though M is sad to be leaving Glendale, the home in America she’d known for 11 years, she’s happy for her family. “My son keeps asking me when we can move. He’s so excited to have a home again,” she recently said and the proud smile on her face as she looks over at him is heartwarming. Her son muses about the future.
“I’ll look forward to taking care of my parents when I’m grown up. I’m going to visit Argentina with them,” says son E.
Why Argentina? His favorite soccer player Leo Messi plays for Argentina. “When I’m 22 and play soccer, maybe Messi will be the coach of my team,” says E.
The son has big dreams and now, with Ascencia’s support and their own hard work, the entire family is back on the bright path out of homelessness, and one step closer to realizing their American dream.