Interview By: Casha Doemland
Alexandria House, located in the Koreatown off of Alexandria Street in Los Angeles serves as a transitional housing shelter for women and women with children. Founded in 1966, this house has helped 92% of the women find financial stability and permanent housing.
Meet Maria, a mother of 5 who has aspirations of becoming a chef with her own restaurant.
Read on to discover her strength and journey through homelessness.
What is your story and how did you arrive at Alexandria House?
I was married to somebody for eleven years, and while he always used drugs, towards the end, he began using more. My five year old was a year old at the time, and I don't know what he was doing, but he left to go to the store and cops picked him up. He had an arrest warrant and served 6 months in county. When he was released, immigration got ahold of him.
By this point, it was probably a year that he had been gone and I had to leave my apartment. I moved in with my mom, and we were sleeping in her living room.
Eventually, he came back, but it was too much and I was okay where I was at. I couldn't go back to where we were before – no gas, we showered with cold water, there was only a little bit of food and no money to do laundry. Whatever he had, it was all for him.
So, I stayed with my mom for two years, but when I got pregnant with my one-year-old, she told me we couldn't stay there anymore.
I moved out with a friend for a while, but her mom said I couldn't stay there any longer because there was too many of us.
After that, I moved to Vegas with my sister for about a year. When I told her I didn't like it there and I wanted to move to California, she told me I couldn't stay with her.
I came back to California and was supposed to stay with a friend until it fell through. So, I stayed in hotels for almost two months until my counselor at the time said she stumbled across Alexandria House.
I came for the interview, and they told me they would get in touch with me in a week. I thought to myself, you're going to tell me no. I shouldn't have come all the way over here. I came all the way over here for nothing.
A week later, I didn't have a phone because it got disconnected. My baby's dad paid for my phone, and right after he paid for it, they called me and told me I could move in after Labor Day – they were just waiting for the beds.
Little by little, things just got better. I even start school on July 2nd to get my GED.
How many kids do you have?
I have 5.
They all live here with you, correct?
Yes. My oldest is a boy and he's 14. From there I have two girls, 13 and 10, and then two more boys 5 and 1.
What's your goal for the next year?
After I finish my GED, I want to try going to culinary school and one day have my own restaurant.
That's awesome, what kind of restaurant?
Do you have a favorite Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles?
Not yet, I'm new here. I've never been on this side. I used to live near Long Beach. While I know a little bit more now, when I first got here I was lost and wouldn't go out anywhere. I would Google how to get to the school's kids and back. Little by little though, they started showing me around.
Do you like it here?
What does the average day in your life look like?
For example on Monday, the kids go to the summer camp here from 9 am to 4 pm.
- I come around 10 or 11 and make them lunch.
- They get out at 4 and we go watch TV and lay down for a little bit.
- At 6, we come down to have dinner with everyone. The whole house sits down and past residents come. There are people that come to cook for us.
- From there, we hang out for a little bit and usually go to 7/11. The kids love going for a Slurpee.
What makes you feel safe?
I don't have to worry about where I am going tomorrow. I have a place to sleep with the kids.
That's wonderful. What are you grateful for?
Everything I have here.
What empowers you?