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Ashley overcomes hurdles, gets protection for her daughter and family

Ashley in front of SFVRM

Ashley didn’t see her father much growing up, as he was in and out of jail. And when she was still a child, her dad got into a fight with her mom and he was deported—she hasn’t seen him since that day.

Ashley dropped out of high school in 11th grade when she got pregnant, and moved in with her baby’s father, his mom and his grandmother. They had another child right away. When her son was 1 and her daughter was just a few months old, her kids’ dad went to prison after getting caught with a gun on campus. Ashley left his mom’s house at that time.

“During my pregnancy he hit me and he would cheat on me,” she said. “He would bring girls to the house while I was pregnant. Every time I wanted to leave he wouldn’t let me. I even tried jumping out of the window.”

Once he was gone, Ashley moved back in with her mom and the later an uncle, who became inappropriate with her. She met another man and started dating him. “My kids really loved him and they began to call him dad,” Ashley said. “Next thing you know I am pregnant again. I ended up having three kids with him. … A new neighbor ended up introducing him and my sister to meth. They ended up getting addicted—they both went downhill fast.”

Ashley called 211 and got a referral to a shelter. She and her children entered the Rescue Mission Alliance San Fernando Valley’s previous location on Saticoy Street in North Hollywood. They were staying there when it burned down in May 2014, when a pallet warehouse next door caught fire.

“We had just had a fire drill that day the fire happened,” Ashley said. “We were rushed to the parking lot behind the shelter at 1 a.m. There was babies sleeping in sleeping bags on the sidewalk. We got moved to the gym where the Red Cross people came to help. The news reporters came to record the fire and to interview us.”

Ashley and some of her kids entered another shelter, but they had to leave when the rest of the kids joined them. “There wasn’t enough room for all of us,” she said. They went to another shelter in LA, and a program helped cover the rent of a house big enough for all of them. Ashley got a job, and they were settled in Compton for a bit.

“I started to go through a hard time,” Ashley said. “My daughter started to really act out. She was getting in a lot of trouble at school and they kicked her out. She also started having suicidal thoughts so she had to go to a mental hospital. I started noticing that her behavior changing. She would run away and come back drunk. She returned home one day, and pulled a 10-inch knife out on me and began to chase me with it. I was so scared. It was like a demon when I looked at her. She didn’t even look like herself.”

Ashley called for help and her daughter climbed to the roof, leading to a standoff with police. She ran away and got involved with some bad people. When she was found months later, it was determined that she had been part of a sex trafficking ring. “I didn’t know if she was dead or alive,” said Ashley. “When she returned, she looked very dirty. She had on dirty jeans with men’s sandals with a big gray men’s sweater on. She was pregnant at 13 years old. She had bruises—old and new—everywhere.”

Now Ashley and her family are safe at Home Again. They are going to church and waiting to get housing. Unfortunately, Ashley’s mom and sister are still homeless, living under a bridge in L.A. “Living in a shelter is hard, but I remind myself why I’m here and to stay positive,” Ashley said. “I appreciate having a safe place to lay my head.

“My daughter is recovering from her trauma. We have a whole team seeking helping for her.”

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