“Being homeless weighs on both your mind and spirit,” said Freddie Avila, a formerly unemployed father of five from El Monte whose family has waited 11 long years to find a place they can finally call home.
For what seemed like an eternity, the Avilas teetered on the edge of survival by staying in shelters and motels, renting vacant rooms, sleeping in their minivan and even camping out in the mountains of nearby Azusa Canyon.
The unstable living situation, coupled with a nagging fear of the unknown, took an immeasurable toll.
“It drains you physically and emotionally, leaving you lonely, depressed and exhausted,” his wife Charlene admitted. “We had had so many doors shut in our faces, we were beginning to lose faith. And not knowing if we could give our kids a hot meal or clean clothing made the two of us feel like unfit parents.”
That’s when local United Way partner Door of Hope stepped in to relieve the Avilas of the crushing burden they’d almost grown accustomed to carrying.
Only a few short weeks after contacting the 211 L.A. County help line, Freddie and Charlene – along with Phillip, Leilani, little Charlene, Rosalie and Angelina – moved into the organization’s Pasadena facility and managed to get their first decent night’s rest in more than a decade.
“The moment we arrived, all of our pent-up pressure and anxiety just disappeared,” Freddie remembered. “The way the staff welcomed us with open arms and the joy we saw in the eyes of everyone there told us we were exactly where we needed to be.”
The crucial career-building, financial literacy and parenting skills they obtained over the next 10 months enabled the Avila family, currently residing in a spacious three-bedroom apartment, to start anew.
Freddie is earning a steady income with a full-time position at the Goodwill, Charlene is training to become a medical assistant and the children – three of whom made the honor roll last semester – are flourishing.
“These days, we’ve got a solid game plan and plenty of goals to keep us moving forward,” Charlene explained. “We can now envision a better future for ourselves – one where our family will never have to be homeless again.”