Sam grew up in an abusive household, and later went on to marry an abusive man. For years, she shielded her three children from the truth… but it was only a matter of time before the violence spread to include them too. Then, Sam knew she had only one option: get her kids out.
They sat at a Jack in the Box for most of that first night, and then slept in their car near the beach.
“I remember listening to all the noises, and the cars passing by, and the people laughing on the beach, and we didn’t have a safe place to go,” Sam said. “The kids fell asleep, and I just kept thinking, ‘We are going to be ok.’”
Sam reached out to family members for help, but no one would take them in. They all told her to go back to her husband and “make it work.”
Their limited funds went toward food. They spent the summer blending in with other families on the beach during the day and visiting places with free WiFi in the evenings so that Sam could look for work. At night, they slept in their car.
“We did what we could. I didn’t want to stress the kids out about what we didn’t have, so we would talk about what we did have. One of our favorite games was ‘What are you Grateful for Today?’” Sam said.
When the summer ended, and they still didn’t have a place to stay, Sam knew they needed some serious help to get back on their feet. She called 211. They helped Sam and her kids find a shelter that could accommodate all five of them.
By then, depression had begun to set in. While Sam was relieved to finally have a safe place to stay, she was at a loss about what to do next.
“When we got to the shelter, I felt sad about all these people with no families to help them. And here we were with no family who would help us either. We were one of them,” she said. “For a couple of weeks, I was stressed and depressed and didn’t want to talk to anyone.”
Then they met Doug, a case manager from PATH Beyond Shelter, who became their friend and advocate. Slowly but surely, things started looking up.
Doug helped Sam look for an apartment and a job. Eventually, a connection got her an interview at a local film studio, and she was hired on the spot. Soon after, they were ready to move into a permanent apartment.
“We moved in on the first of July, just in time to watch the fireworks from our new balcony,” she said.
Homelessness was stressful and scary, but it also helped Sam focus on the things that were truly the most important for her family.
“When we were homeless, I learned so much about the kids,” she said. “We would just sit and talk, and we had never really done that before. Making the decision to leave abuse was hard. When you put up with it for a long time, you lose yourself along the way and you never really get that part of yourself back. But my children and I learned how to build a better life. We learned so much about each other, and we formed a stronger bond.”