Yesenia, a single mother of two, sorts through donation boxes for household goods to decorate her new apartment. She eventually settles on three red plates and a lamp while her 3-year-old son clutches a Lego box he found tucked away in the community center of Villa Serena, an affordable housing community in San Marcos.
“It was just like this weight that had been lifted off my shoulders. I thought ‘This is it – this is our new beginning,’” Yesenia said.
Born and raised in San Diego, Yesenia grew up in an environment where drug usage was normal. She fell into a cycle of instability – ending up in group homes or jumping from one couch to another. At 17 she became pregnant with her long-time partner, but four years later she abandoned the relationship after her children’s father began to display the same behaviors she grew up with.
Yesenia and her children moved to Arizona to find temporary housing with friends. Eventually, she returned to California – couch-surfing with her two young children. For more than a year, Yesenia applied to every affordable housing community that had a waiting list and constantly called the 211 number to inquire about housing – hoping that one day she would get a call back.
When she received notice that a home was available for her at Villa Serena, Yesenia said she jumped for joy in the middle of her shift at a convenience store. The move-in process began immediately; Yesenia was in her new home by the end of the three-day weekend.
“There was a lot going through my head,” Yesenia said. “I was overwhelmed, I was happy, I was scared – it was a lot to take in. I’ve never lived by myself and have never really experienced what it means to be a grownup, but it was time.”
Across the nation, 60% of those experiencing homelessness are families headed by single mothers like Yesenia.
With the help of Alpha Projects, a nonprofit organization that assists individuals in finding affordable housing and social services, Yesenia has lived at Villa Serena for four months, occupying one of eight apartment homes designated as supportive housing for young adults in the Transitional Age Youth program.
The National CORE property management and Hope through Housing Foundation onsite teams partnered to furnish the apartments and provide support to ease the residents’ transition into their new homes. Through the foundation, residents have access to financial classes, emergency funds, household items by way of donations and so much more.
Yesenia is settling into her new home and receives assistance from Hope through Housing Regional Director Stephanie De La Torre. She said the two have developed a strong connection, and she can tell Stephanie is there to genuinely help others. Yesenia has found a sense of peace that she said had always been absent in her life.
She plans to return to school and pursue a short-term career as a cosmetologist with aspirations of becoming a nurse.
“It’s a cycle and I’m tired of the cycle. I do not want to be bouncing from house to house,” Yesenia said. “I want different for my kids. My childhood was taken away from me and I just want better for them.”