Mirella grew up in the Valley, finished high school and started community college with hopes of studying architecture. But when her dad got sick, her world changed. “Everything went downhill,” she said. “I was working and going to school full time, but after my dad passed away, I needed to work full time to help my mom. I needed to stop college for a while.”
Mirella got a certification in the dental field instead, and has been in that work for 16 years. She got married and had two children, but the union ended in divorce. She moved back in with her mom and has had two more children since. “My third child’s father, ever since I had her, he’s been out of the picture,” Mirella said. “He calls whenever he remembers, I guess. That hurts me the most because she needs the most attention. She doesn’t have that affection from her dad or his family. My last child, she just turned 4. Her dad is around, but he works a lot so she hardly sees him, but she sees her grandma.”
Mirella and her kids, now 15, 13, 8 and 4, had their own place before moving in with her mom more than five years ago. “My mom needed help, so I came back,” said Mirella, now 38. “I love my mom. She’s always been there for me. But she recently told us we had to find our own place, with no notice. We all had to leave the place we were at, and she and her husband found their own place quickly, since it’s just the two of them. It’s harder for me with my kids. My brothers couldn’t help me.”
Mirella called the county, but they were unable to help. “They didn’t even have any vouchers or anything,” she said. “There was nothing. We stayed in a hotel one night, and then we stayed in the car—me and all four kids. We were in and out of places, and then we became homeless. I didn’t know what else to do.”
Mirella stayed with a friend for a month in her trailer. Then, she found a garage to rent. “There was no kitchen, no bathroom—we were just sleeping on the floor. We found some furniture on the street—a little table, a couple little chairs. During the storms, the kids were getting sick too much. Someone from my daughter’s school referred me here.”
Mirella is relieved to have a roof over her kids’ heads now. “My little ones, they are happy,” she said. “There are other kids their age, and they are always playing and running around. My two older kids, it’s harder for them to go through this. Sometimes I know they aren’t comfortable, but they know I’m trying my best. Sometimes they want things I can’t afford, and it can be frustrating, but I just tell them that they need to focus on school, and I try to do whatever I can for them.”
The staff and the other families staying at the mission have been supportive. “Ever since we got here, we’ve felt very welcome,” Mirella said. “Everyone is very nice and so helpful. If we need something, they have it for us right away. I have no complaints. I’m just very grateful that they are helping us and letting us be here. Even the other people here—you really get to know the families, and it’s been really nice.
Mirella has some leads on housing and is hopeful she and her family will be in their own stable housing soon. “It’s peaceful here,” she said. “It’s a safe place to be until we get back on our feet.”