Member Spotlight: Jennifer’s Story

“Being homeless is horrible. Every place I called wanted to split us up. I just couldn’t do that. We’re a family. We needed to stay together.” 

One of Jennifer’s favorite things to do is cook for her family. She loves to bring her mother and her daughters together over a big pot of chili. “It means so much to me that I can take care of them and know they are safe,” she says.

But for years, it was all she could do just to keep them together.

Jennifer, her mom, and her daughters became housing insecure after falling on hard times. When they weren’t able to make the monthly payment on their home, they tried living with family, but that proved to be a temporary solution. Complex family dynamics made things difficult and one day Jennifer received a disturbing text.  It was short and sweet and said “You need to pack your things and leave.”

In that moment, Jennifer and her family became homeless.

“I tried to call around and find some services that might be able to help us,” says Jennifer. “But every place I called wanted to split us up. I just couldn’t do that. We’re a family. We needed to stay together.” 

For the next year, Jennifer and her family lived out of their car. Occasionally they would splurge on a motel room when money would allow and they were desperate for a good night’s sleep. Eventually, Jennifer and her family found themselves living in a homeless encampment under a freeway. Being in the car provided some shelter, but it was still dangerous.

“Being homeless is horrible,” says Jennifer. “My depression spiraled out of control. I was always stressed It’s just a sad way to live. I thank God I found Step Up when I did.”

Jennifer met Sierra from Step Up while the team was conducting street outreach in Sacramento.

“As soon as Sierra looked in the car and saw my daughter, she said ‘Absolutely not. You can’t stay here. We’ll find you a place today.’ — and they did!” said Jennifer.

That night Jennifer and her family slept in real beds with a locked door. It was the first of many promises that Step Up kept. 

Jennifer and her family stayed in temporary housing while Sierra helped them search for an apartment that would meet their needs. During this time, Jennifer participated in Step Up’s wraparound services. They helped her set up doctor appointments and connected her with food services. She started to get her mental health under control again.

As the search for an apartment continued, Jennifer started to become worried. She was afraid that the program might end before they found a place. “I never want to be homeless again and I feared that if we didn’t find something soon, we’d end up back on the streets,” says Jennifer.

But Sierra said “It’s not over until we get you someplace to live permanently. We’re with you every step of the way.” 

“Sierra is just an awesome person,” says Jennifer.

After a long year of waiting, Sierra and Jennifer finally found the perfect apartment. Step up helped furnish the apartment, supplying a bed for Jennifer’s oldest daughter, dressers, a kitchen table, and so much more.

“They gave us everything we needed to build a foundation for our new life. They helped us call this place a home.”

Today, Jennifer and her family are thriving.

“If it wasn’t for Sierra and Step Up, we wouldn’t all be safe and together now,” says Jennifer. “I cannot thank them enough. It really makes you appreciate the small things – having clothes, a hot shower. I LOVE having a kitchen! I haven’t been this happy in a long time.” 

Recently, Jennifer’s oldest daughter, Layla, asked her if they would have to move again.

“No baby. This our home,” said Jennifer. The relief in her voice was palpable.

“Good,” said Layla, “because I love it here.” 


Jennifer’s story of recovery is made possible in part thanks to the programs and services supported by people like you. To help bring more people like Jennifer and family home, make a donation today

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