Ask Anita and Tony what helped their family survive while living in their car under the US 2 Trestle, and they’ll tell you it was being together as a family.
After Tony lost his job, the family of four lost their home. They immediately got on the waiting list for shelter, but like so many homeless families in Snohomish County, they faced a long wait. With nowhere else to turn, Anita took their teen girls, Samantha and Tawtyana, and found a place to sleep in their car. Tony was able to find work, but it was several hours away so he had to separate from his family. He worked hard to be able to feed the girls, and saved all his extra money for housing.
At night the three huddled together in the back seat with their dog Ava, who protected them and kept them warm. To pass the time, they’d tell stories and make each other laugh. “We may not have had much, but we had each other. We were together,” Anita recalls. “That’s how we survived.”
At first, Anita thought living in their car would only be short-term. But days turned into months. Nearly a year into their homelessness the unthinkable happened. Anita was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer.
Thankfully, a local organization covered the family’s motel stay while Anita was undergoing chemotherapy. On her very last day of treatment, the family knew it was time to return to their car. With their bags packed, they were heading out the door when they received a call.
“We had a place to live!” Anita recalls, tearfully. “Finally, we were going to have a home.”
After three years of homelessness, including nearly one year spent in a car, the family had safe, stable housing with Housing Hope.
Life changed dramatically. Not only did they have the stability of a roof over their heads and food on the table, but they had the encouragement and counsel of a Housing Hope Family Support Coach, an Employment Specialist, a Child and Family Specialist, and classes through the College of Hope.
Because of your support, 2018 was a big year for Anita, Tony, Samantha and Tawtyana. With help from an Employment Specialist, Tony found a great job at a local manufacturing plant and began earning a living wage. Tawtyana started to work on her GED, now that she had electricity and internet access. With the support of a Child and Family Specialist, Samantha is excelling in her sophomore year of high school. She is enjoying doing “normal teenager things,” like going to the prom and joining clubs. And Anita has been cancer-free for nearly one year. Together, they are thriving.
Reflecting on the past year, their old life in the car feels like a world away. But they can still vividly recall their first night in their new home at Housing Hope.
The very first thing they did as a family? Cook together!
“We have always loved baking together, and we really missed that while we were homeless,” says Anita. “When we were finally back together again, making food for the whole family was the perfect way to celebrate.”