At the time, the Fontes family was sleeping in the back of their rusted ’92 Ford Explorer in a Ralphs parking lot. It was around the same time that a new sign appeared in front of their truck: “No Overnight Parking.”
Since Christina and her husband Carlos lost their jobs in late 2008, the Fonteses had been homeless. They tried shelters that could only accommodate single parent families but the kids, Randy and 11-year-old Cassandra, insisted on the flatbed over the cot to keep their family together.
Forced from their temporary parking space, the Fonteses found refuge in a shelter on Skid Row. The neighborhood was too rough for the children, though, and once a unit became available through an emergency family shelter in Boyle Heights, “a whole new world opened up for us.”
Once the family moved in, Carlos achieved his employment and education goals within months – finding full-time construction work and enrolling in night school. Christina’s goal, always the same, was to see her kids flourish.
Randy has earned straight As in the fourth grade and taken a lead role in student council at his elementary school. Cassandra, who is entering high school in the fall, turned her Ds into Bs and was chosen as one of 1,700 students who will travel to the White House to talk about community service with President Obama. By all measures, Mom’s goal has been met.
With the help of the housing stability program at United Way partner, L.A. Family Housing, the family secured a Section 8 voucher and is currently searching for an apartment in their old North Hollywood neighborhood.
The Fonteses have already begun saying their goodbyes. Christina will miss her rap sessions with the other moms in the shelter; Randy hopes they stay just long enough to go on the Dodgers field trip; both kids will get to keep their favorite tutor.
Although they will miss everyone, there’s no need for a street sign to move them on this time. The Fontes family has earned their last move and now, Christina can answer her son’s question in months rather than shrugs.