- Thomas House Family Shelter
From Hopeless to Hopeful
Updated: Sep 7, 2022
With community support, Thomas House Family Shelter supports unhoused family through cancer, loss, and bereavement. Join us in empowering the surviving brother and sister, Javier (27) and Alondra (12), to heal, remain together, and find success in school, work, and life.
On December 2019 during the height of COVID-19, Martina and her two children, Javier and Alondra, fled an abusive relationship. A single mother and sole provider, Martina cooked, cleaned, and worked tirelessly as a full-time Lyft and Uber driver to make ends meet. It was an anxious time for the family, and fears were high about contracting COVID-19. Then, it hit home. Martina began to feel ill. Her body ached, she had headaches, and felt fatigued. Worried that she may have COVID-19, she sought testing only to find that her test results were negative, but her symptoms persisted and worsened over time. She was then hospitalized, and after multiple tests, Martina was diagnosed with Leukemia.
Everything in their lives changed. Martina had to stop work while undergoing her grueling cancer treatments; Javier and Alondra became their mothers' primary caregivers, and Javier became the breadwinner. Unfortunately, his full-time manufacturing position did not cover all bills and living expenses.
Concerned neighbors were in disbelief when they discovered the news about Martina's illness. Initially, the community raised money to pay for the family's apartment rent. When the neighbors could no longer provide aid for the family, the family felt desperate and did not know where to turn.
Alondra's school counselor, aware of the family situation, advised them to contact Thomas House. In May 2021, we were delighted to welcome the family into their apartment at Thomas House. Martina and her children now had a stable, safe home with food and supplies at no cost to them. Martina felt an enormous sense of relief to know that she and her family would be supported while she fought for her life.
Javier's income always supported the family, but it was clear that he would not be able to propel his family into independence and self-sufficiency without the proper support, guidance, and resources. The Thomas House team quickly stepped in to help alleviate some of the pressure Javier felt trying to financially support his family while also taking care of his mother and sister. Our Case Managers made Martina's doctor appointments, set up transportation, and provided friendship and moral support. In addition, they also encouraged Alondra to engage in our Youth Development Program and participate in our Teen Case Management Program, including counseling and after-school support. With this newfound support, Javier worked more hours without the unrealistic guilt that he had to do it all on his own.
Javier remembers being hopeful when his mother got her blood transfusion and knew she would come home to stay. Unfortunately, in August 2021, Martina was hospitalized again and, after three long months, lost her battle with cancer on October 24th.
LIFE AFTER DEATH
Javier and Alondra struggled tremendously with their mother's passing. Alondra no longer had the person she could go to in times of crisis nor the person that would guide her through her journey into womanhood. Unsure of how to cope with her grief, she developed an eating disorder and struggled with depression. Our Case Managers made sure both Javier and Alondra could receive the therapy they needed to address their emotional, mental, and physical distress and learn tools to help them heal and begin to move forward.
It has been a challenge, but Javier has been steadfast in figuring out how to be a sole provider, role model, and parent to his younger sister.
FIGHTING TO STAY TOGETHER
In January 2022, Javier began to fight for permanent custody of Alondra. He wanted to make sure that no matter what had happened in their lives, Alondra could feel safe and supported. On May 24th, 2022, Javier received the news that he was awarded full custody of his sister! He felt a tremendous weight had been lifted off his shoulders and he could now breathe and relax knowing that he was Alondra's full-time guardian.
"I would never have imagined being a parent figure, but thanks to the support of many people, I am now doing it." Javier shared.
As time has progressed, Javier and Alondra have now made astonishing improvements. Javier attends parenting classes to be the best guardian he can be, continues to attend therapy sessions to improve his mental health, and reached his personal savings goal of six months of rent. Alondra recently started middle school. She has been able to get out of her comfort zone and develop new friendships, experience new things, actively engage in activities at the shelter, and boost her confidence.
Both Javier and Alondra have also set goals for themselves.
Javier's goals are to find permanent housing, continue to work on his mental and physical health, and be the best guardian he can be for his sister by finding new ways to parent to continue to improve their relationship. Alondra's goals are to do well in school, start more hobbies and get into an extracurricular activity. She continues to engage in counseling and our after-school programs.
Javier expresses that time seems to have moved extremely fast since his mother's passing. He has grown into his role as head of the household and takes pride in the progress that he's made. Javier is still processing his grief and says, "some days are harder than others, but I know that I cannot change the past. I am grateful that I have support from my family members and Thomas House. I don't know where I would be without them. There was a dark time in my past, I went through a lot of things, but now I am glad I am not in that place anymore. I am somewhere great".
You can ensure Javier, Alondra, and the 50-60 unhoused families we serve each year have a safe, supportive environment and the resources necessary to become independent and self-sufficient by making a donation today!