Holiday Seeds of Hope: A Family Reflects on Sponsor a Child

Jessica Ray, FCNI Staff
January, 29, 2019 -

Each year, our Sponsor a Child for the Holidays giving campaign has a profound and far-reaching impact on the children, youth and families we serve. In wanting you--our community--to truly understand how meaningful, how empowering and how vital the gift cards and funds you gave are, I reached out to our families to hear from them myself what Sponsor a Child meant to them. I then sat down with and interviewed a local family who wanted to share their experience with you all; below, I share their story written from their perspective. In reading this, I hope that you can see the difference you made in their lives, trusting that your gift to us this past holiday season goes far beyond just this season; you helped plant seeds of hope that will inspire families to keep pushing ahead to achieve their goals.

My family has been a part of the Central Coast community since 2009, living in Morro Bay until we lost our home there. We were on a month-to-month lease in the house we were living in when it was suddenly sold, and the landlord only gave us a month’s notice to find and move into another rental for a family of six--my husband, myself, and our kids (16 years, 14 years, 12 years and 13 months). My husband and I were both steadily employed in the area, but our income barely covered our expenses each month. While we found a shop in Atascadero that we could move into, it was just a warehouse with a bathroom, not a real home for our kids. Now, we’re living in two RVs on a friend’s property while still looking for a real home for our family. We’ve had a few leads, but most landlords in the area don’t want to rent to a large family, and due to the housing shortage they can be much more selective.

During the holidays, we typically celebrate very simply. We love to drink hot chocolate while decorating our tree, and listen to Christmas music together. Early in the morning on Christmas Day, we get up and open presents like most families probably do, and just enjoy spending time together. This year, since we’re in such tight quarters and separated into two RVs, we opened presents in the morning and then we all went to have a Christmas meal with friends. My main concern this holiday season was that we wouldn’t be able to put any gifts under the tree. Our sole focus has been to save up for a home, and we don’t have a lot of extra for the little things that make the holidays special. Receiving gift cards for the holidays through Sponsor a Child meant everything to us. We took the kids shopping, and they all were able to choose things that they really needed. They choose clothing and coats to get them through the cold months, and the baby got some new warm shoes. My teenage daughter also chose some fun makeup which helped her to feel young and special.

Our biggest goal right now is to provide stable housing for our family. My husband is an auto mechanic, but has an opportunity to get a better job and is working hard towards that goal. I’m taking more shifts at my job where I’ve been for eight years to provide as well as I can for our kids.

Central Coast living provides a huge challenge for working families like ours--requiring an income that is three times as much as the incredibly high rent is a pretty hard bar to reach. You’d have to be working around the clock to make that much money around here with the level of wages. Honestly, if we made that much money, we would buy a house! Rent is way too high, the availability of housing is too low, and the criteria we have to meet is too challenging. We’ve had a family dog since he was a puppy, and it was never a problem for our landlord in Morro Bay, but landlords willing to allow a family with a pet to rent a home on the Central Coast seem few and far between. My seventh grader was recently taught in class that you have to make a minimum of $30 per hour minimum to be able to afford rent in Paso Robles. It’s an overly saturated market, with demanding landlords. Every open house we show up to typically has a line of applicants going out the door, so why would they choose a family? A two-bedroom house that we can “afford” is not going to rent to a family of six when they can rent to a single person or smaller family. In our 28 years of marriage, my husband and I have faced many challenges but none like finding good housing for our family. More affordable housing needs to be built; communities need to plan for healthy growth. When we initially moved to Morro Bay, housing was more affordable and it was not a challenge to secure a home. The way the Central Coast community is growing right feels like it is weeding working middle class families like ours out.

The Housing Support Program is helping us increase our credit score and to make connections in the community that might lead to housing. But most of all, it’s helping us to have hope that this season of our lives won’t last forever. Through HSP, we’ve attended workshops on raising your credit score, budgeting and knowing how to fill out a housing application. We also know that the Housing Support Program will help us pay a deposit on a home once we find one, so we stay out of debt. They’ve been very helpful and supportive, and we’ve been able to put everything we’ve learned to good use.

The Housing Support Program has been a huge blessing to our family this past year, and has helped us meet vital month-to-month needs. We haven’t been “housed” yet with the support of the program, but we keep pursuing every possible opportunity. Our family just wants to thank the community for keeping our hopes high over the holiday season. The gift cards gifted to us through the Sponsor a Child campaign felt empowering for our kids, because they could each choose the things that they wanted and needed the most. Thank you for making a difference to our family!