Alexandria House, located in the Koreatown off of Alexandria Street in Los Angeles serves as a transitional housing shelter for women and women with children. Founded in 1966, this house has helped 92% of the women find financial stability and permanent housing.
Meet Maria, a mother of 5 who has aspirations of becoming a chef with her own restaurant.
Read on to discover her strength and journey through homelessness.
Casha: What is your story and how did you arrive at Alexandria House?
Maria: I was married to somebody for eleven years, and while he always used drugs, towards the end, he began using more. My five year old was a year old at the time, and I don't know what he was doing, but he left to go to the store and cops picked him up. He had an arrest warrant and served 6 months in county. When he was released, immigration got ahold of him.
By this point, it was probably a year that he had been gone and I had to leave my apartment. I moved in with my mom, and we were sleeping in her living room.
Eventually, he came back, but it was too much and I was okay where I was at. I couldn't go back to where we were before – no gas, we showered with cold water, there was only a little bit of food and no money to do laundry. Whatever he had, it was all for him.
So, I stayed with my mom for two years, but when I got pregnant with my one-year-old, she told me we couldn't stay there anymore.
I moved out with a friend for a while, but her mom said I couldn't stay there any longer because there was too many of us.
After that, I moved to Vegas with my sister for about a year. When I told her I didn't like it there and I wanted to move to California, she told me I couldn't stay with her.
I came back to California and was supposed to stay with a friend until it fell through. So, I stayed in hotels for almost two months until my counselor at the time said she stumbled across Alexandria House.
I came for the interview, and they told me they would get in touch with me in a week. I thought to myself, you're going to tell me no. I shouldn't have come all the way over here. I came all the way over here for nothing.
A week later, I didn't have a phone because it got disconnected. My baby's dad paid for my phone, and right after he paid for it, they called me and told me I could move in after Labor Day – they were just waiting for the beds.
Little by little, things just got better. I even start school on July 2nd to get my GED.
Casha: You have two kids?
Maria: I have 5.
Casha: They all live here with you, correct?
Maria: Yes. My oldest is a boy and he's 14. From there I have two girls, 13 and 10, and then two more boys 5 and 1.
Casha: What's your goal for the next year?
Maria: After I finish my GED, I want to try going to culinary school and one day have my own restaurant.
Casha: That's awesome, what kind of restaurant?
Casha: Do you have a favorite Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles?
Maria: Not yet, I'm new here. I've never been on this side. I used to live near Long Beach. While I know a little bit more now, when I first got here I was lost and wouldn't go out anywhere. I would Google how to get to the school's kids and back. Little by little though, they started showing me around.
Casha: Do you like it here?
Casha: What does the average day in your life look like?
Maria: For example on Monday, the kids go to the summer camp here from 9 am to 4 pm.
- I come around 10 or 11 and make them lunch.
- They get out at 4 and we go watch TV and lay down for a little bit.
- At 6, we come down to have dinner with everyone. The whole house sits down and past residents come. There are people that come to cook for us.
- From there, we hang out for a little bit and usually go to 7/11. The kids love going for a Slurpee.
Casha: What makes you feel safe?
Maria: I don't have to worry about where I am going tomorrow. I have a place to sleep with the kids.
Casha: That's wonderful. What are you grateful for?
Maria: Everything I have here.
Casha: What empowers you?
Maria: My kids.