Local

Non-profit offers homelessness prevention

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dozens of individuals and families in Fresno have reason to be thankful this year. They have permanent housing, some for the very first time.

Federal and local dollars have allowed many families to celebrate Thanksgiving in a place to call home.

April Mendez, 26, is roasting chiles for salsa to take to a Thanksgiving celebration. For the first time in her life. She says she and her three children have a place to call home.

Safe Haven is run by a Fresno non-profit organization "Angels of Grace." Mendez and half a dozen other young women share this expansive home.

April says, "Whenever my kids see the house .. They always say' 'there's our house.... The yellow house.'"

April was abandoned by her parents at birth, an aunt and uncle took her in but she ran away to find her real parents at 12, then she stayed in a series of foster homes until at the age of 15. She dropped out of school and was on her own.

April says, "My kids... They give me hope... Because I went through all that... I know what it's like to be out there... "

After struggling with a meth addiction and losing her children, April is now getting back on track thanks to Angels of Grace and other agencies willing to give her a second chance.

"It's only as hard as you make it ... If you actually go out and seek things... There are things out there .... It's just how bad you want it ... If you don't want it that bad... You won't find it," April says.

April is one of more than 1,200 individuals in the city of Fresno who are in housing or were prevented from falling into homelessness within the past year. Fresno's homeless prevention and policy manager Greg Barfield says a permanent home is the first step in helping people become independent.

Barfield says, "They have a stable address where an employer can contact them... Maybe they can store their belongings .... They can go to school... And really become re-integrated into society"

April is back in school and is ready to provide a stable environment for her children, thanks to her own efforts and the help of others.

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Tags:
fresno, fresno county, homeless, holiday, local, liz harrison
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