Hear from the youth, children and families we have strengthened
Read their stories
SBCS has been strengthening San Diegans since 1971. Our services and supports – based in the strengths of local communities – assist those throughout the region reach their fullest potential.
In 2019, single-mother Olivia reached out to SBCS’s Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) program through her child’s school to help her two youngest children and grandson who live with her in National City. PEI helps strengthen a child’s social-emotional skills and provides a strong foundation for their academic success by offering free on-site mental health support at local elementary schools. The family had experienced some intense challenges, including the loss of Olivia’s oldest daughter and her own recent Leukemia diagnosis. Olivia was concerned that these experiences would affect the mental health and well-being of her children and sought support through PEI.
Olivia found the strength to join our parent group, get involved in school events, and even offered peer support for other parents. Her two youngest children participated in small group counseling and our trauma-informed therapist helped them process feelings of grief and anxiety in Spanish, their primary language as a family.
Later on, the children shared that the group had helped them openly communicate their feelings with their mother and family. SBCS staff was also able to connect the family with supportive services to after her grandson’s autism diagnosis.
When she went into remission, SBCS connected Olivia with a program where she could earn a certificate in mental health first aid that she’d eyed throughout her illness, and finally had the ability to pursue. Last month, she also participated in our financial literacy class and now contributes to a savings account. SBCS will continue to be there for Olivia and her family as they continue to heal and achieve self-sufficiency.
SBCS’s PEI program offers small counseling groups and monthly activities for families with children in grades pre-k to third grade at select South Bay region elementary schools. For more information, please contact SBCS at 619-420-3620.
On a recent morning a grandmother, Ana, called SBCS’s Family Urgent Response System (FURS) hotline and expressed concern about how to support her 11-year-old grandson Jorge who displayed aggressive, unsafe behavior at home and threatened to run away. SBCS’s FURS program serves as a 24/7 resource for current or former foster youth (up to age 21) and their caregivers. Youth and families with involvement in the foster system are at increased risk of issues ranging from food and housing insecurity to family violence and mental health needs. Through SBCS’s FURS hotline, vulnerable populations can access immediate, live support for any issue, big or small 24/7.
The SBCS FURS associate who took the call and first spoke with Ana had her own lived experience with Child Welfare Services. Drawing on both her lived experience and professional training, our associate was able to connect with our newest clients quickly and start building a trusting relationship that effective crisis interventions require.
Our associate first spoke with Ana and validated her feelings about Jorge’s behavior. With Ana’s permission, our associate also spoke with Jorge and learned that the main way he coped with big feelings was by covering himself with a blanket on the couch and using single words to describe his emotions. Our associate shared some helpful new coping strategies for Jorge to use when he’s upset in the future, and he said he’d give them a try. Our team also explored some additional community resources with Ana.
When our team followed up with the family the next day, we were happy to learn that Ana and Jorge had used several of their new conflict management strategies already. They had given each other some space to cool down, he had used his words in a respectful way, and when he was feeling overwhelmed, he had found a quiet activity to do to help him relax. Our team continued follow-up, and the family continues to work on strengthening their relationship, one step at a time.
The FURS hotline (1-833-939-FURS) is a 24/7 text and call hotline available for current or former foster youth (up to age 21) and their caregivers to call and receive immediate help and in-person support for any issue; big or small.
Kevin is a military father who has made great efforts to be present during his infant son Kyson’s life. He began building a relationship with his son while away on deployment by recording videos of himself reading stories which his wife Ayumi would then play for Kyson at bedtime. Ayumi and Kyson joined our First 5 First Steps program when Kyson was just a few weeks old and the two of them had been receiving one-on-one home visits and participating in parent groups gatherings for months before Kevin was finally able to join them.
Kevin arrived back home and met Kyson for the first time when he was learning to crawl. As Kevin acclimated to being back home and his new role as a dad, he expressed difficulty connecting with Kyson and finding his place in his son’s routines. He joined his wife and son during home visits with our team and the family learned what values were important to them and strengthened their bond through program activities. Kevin expressed that gaining more knowledge about Kyson’s development helped increase his confidence as a father.
Despite being away for the first months of Kyson’s life, Kevin and his son’s relationship is strong and they continue to grow together as a family. At SBCS, we’re celebrating Kevin and so many dedicated dads like him. Our First 5 First Steps team is looking forward to continuing to support this loving family.
Michael is a 14-year-old student who was arrested for the first time by the Chula Vista Police Department for criminal threats at school. His parents reached out to SBCS for help and he was referred to our Alternatives to Detention (ATD) Program. Michael was facing potential expulsion from school, experienced bullying and harassment from his classmates, and shared feelings of depression and isolation.
He began participating in our Young Men’s Council support group and felt accepted, as he learned about peer pressure and positive decision-making. Michael also took part in individual counseling to develop healthy coping skills for depression and anxiety. He has now completed the program and his criminal case was dropped by the District Attorney.
Through our Alternatives to Detention program, Michael avoided the probation system and now has the opportunity to attend his school next year. He expressed gratitude for the ATD program and his case manager. He also shared that the group and individual therapy significantly helped to improve his mental health.
SBCS is proud to offer youth like Michael and his family an alternative to involvement in the juvenile justice system and a supportive path to success.
(Name and photo changed to protect confidentiality)
Our youth suicide prevention and intervention peer support partners met with seventh-grader Ana after she expressed feelings of suicidal ideation. She hadn’t explored therapy because she worried that if her mother found out about her feelings, she would be punished.
After learning more about Ana, her life, her feelings, and her support network, we helped engage Ana’s mother as a support person, and offered safety planning resources to the family. At first, Ana’s mother was wary and wanted to restrict her screen time and social activities. After some deeper discussion to understand the mother’s concerns and Ana’s needs, Ana’s mother opened to the idea of her daughter receiving counseling services to support her mental well-being.
We’re grateful that Ana found the courage to reach out to us and we’re honored to continue being a resource to she and her family as she grows and thrives in the classroom, at home, and beyond.
Former foster youth Nicole and her one-year-old son Joseph recently fled their home after experiencing abuse at the hands of Joseph’s father. Joseph’s heart condition made Nicole hesitant to risk COVID-19 infection in a shelter, so she and Joseph slept in her car. They were safer there than at home, but a car is no place for a mother and her baby to live.
After two weeks living out of her car, Nicole called SBCS’s Emergency Hotline and we immediately moved her and Joseph into a one-bedroom apartment of their own at our shelter for survivors of domestic violence. But we didn’t stop there. We know that with additional supports, survivors of domestic violence are better equipped to build a bright future for their family.
We go above and beyond shelter. We know that with additional supports, survivors of domestic violence are better equipped to build a bright future for themselves and their family.
In addition to emergency shelter Nicole also received:
- Financial assistance to enroll in a CPR certification course through our Transition Age Youth program. This certification will help her find work in her field.
- Work clothes and other basic needs
- An apartment of her own through a Rapid Rehousing program with case management and rental assistance
A local parent reached out to SBCS’s Our Safe Place team for support when her child Kenedi came out as transgender. The parent expressed worry about not knowing how to handle the situation and unsure of questions to ask or what to expect.
Our LGBTQ+ youth support team offered to meet with both of Kenedi’s parents to discuss services that would fit their family’s needs. Kenedi’s parents visited our drop-in community center eager to learn. Our Youth Support Partner hosted a non-judgmental space for the parents to speak honestly and offered perspective on Kenedi’s identity from their own lived experience.
Kenedi and her parents returned a couple weeks later, having made great progress in their ability to communicate openly and using correct name and pronouns. At SBCS we’re grateful to support LGBTQ+ youth and their families as they navigate experiences with patience and compassion.
Marisa is a single parent who lives in Chula Vista with her grandchild. When her older granddaughter and her husband experienced unemployment because of the pandemic, Marisa invited them and their three children to move in.
Having expanded to a household of seven people in a two-bedroom apartment, it quickly became overcrowded, and Marisa was overwhelmed. To support her family and pay bills, she withdrew the maximum amount from her retirement plan and borrowed loans.
Maria’s stress escalated when her family tested positive for COVID-19, twice in one year. She had to miss work and struggled to make ends meet. The family applied for assistance through the Chula Vista Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program (ERAP)that SBCS runs in partnership with the City of Chula Vista and qualified to receive 10 months of rental and utility assistance.
We’re grateful to have helped Marisa and her family achieve self-sufficiency through their most vulnerable moments and beyond.
Julio, a National School District student, was placed in a one-day foster home due to safety concerns after his mother was admitted to the hospital while traveling. His grandmother contacted SBCS’s National City Family Resource Center and our team provided her with assistance to receive emergency custody of Julio.
Together we also strategized a long-term plan for them, including full-custody, utility assistance and help with applications for SENTRI, Medi-Cal and CalFresh programs.
SBCS is proud to support Julio’s grandmother as she nurtures Julio’s health and well-being so that he can continue to grow and reach his fullest potential. Our teams remain committed to serving San Diego families, youth, and children through their most vulnerable times and on to bright futures.
Antonio is an elderly Chula Vista resident whose wife is battling cancer and whose income is based on social security. He was working as a rideshare driver for supplemental income but had to quit at the onset of the pandemic due to health concerns and his wife’s diagnosis.
Without this additional income, the family was unable to fully pay rent and was on the verge of eviction. They applied for assistance through the Chula Vista Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program (ERAP) that SBCS runs in partnership with the City of Chula Vista and qualified to receive 10 months of rental arrears and 3 months of prospective rent.
At SBCS, we are proud to help members of our community like Antonio and his wife through challenging times.
We first met first-generation college student Joaquin when he was in middle school, through SBCS’ Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood program. Our Academic Advocates quickly noticed his eagerness to take advantage of all opportunities for personal and academic growth. We provided him with academic guidance and support throughout his studies, including navigating college applications.
After careful consideration of all his acceptance letters, Joaquin has decided to study food science at Cornell University! We’re proud of Joaquin’s immense determination, and we look forward to cheering him on as his journey continues.
We first met Yizel during her senior year at Castle Park High School, through SBCS’s Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood Academic Advocates program which supports students through the college application and selection process. The Academic Advocates team supported Yizel with college and career planning strategies and mentorship as she set her sights on studying kinesiology at the college level. Parents and community often play a major role in post-high school planning, and the Academic Advocates team frequently includes them in discussions as part of the student’s support team. Yizel’s mother, like so many parents of graduating teens, was concerned about her daughter’s college choices and wanted to make sure her daughter made the best choices for herself and her future.
Yizel’s entire college support team, including our Academic Advocates and her family, were thrilled when she received many college acceptance letters. Through lots of discussion, shared resources, and support, our Academic Advocates team helped Yizel weigh her options carefully and helped her mother be an active, positive, supporter during the process. Yizel has graduated high school and enrolled at San Diego Mesa College. SBCS and our Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood program continue to be a resource to her as she navigates college and her future.
When Graciela was a teen, her mother passed away and she began living with an aunt. Unfortunately, conditions with her aunt weren’t healthy and she found herself homeless, couch-surfing until she was finally connected to SBCS. Once connected, she was quickly matched to our Transitional Aged Youth Rapid Rehousing program, and found stable housing right on SDSU’s campus where she could more easily pursue her education.
Then, tragically, Graciela’s grandmother passed away and she found herself with the sudden responsibility of caring for her two 13-year-old brothers. Through her own perseverance and the support of her community, she was able to move into a bigger apartment to accommodate her new life.
Throughout her life’s transitions, SBCS has been there to support Graciela and her family. With the help of Humble Design we even helped transform her apartment into the furnished and thoughtfully decorated home that she and her brothers deserve. Since becoming part of the SBCS family, she has finished school, become more financially stable, and is building a bright future for herself and her brothers.
Five-year-old child Joshua lived in 8 different foster homes after experiencing severe abuse and neglect as an infant, including being left in a motel bathtub. When SBCS’s Mi Escuelita Therapeutic Preschool stepped in, Joshua had difficulty following classroom rules and transitioning from one activity to the next. He often told teachers that he wasn’t going to be with them long because he “graduates” from all the schools he goes to. With Mi Escuelita’s unique therapeutic activities and the encouragement of his teachers, Joshua gradually became more engaged in learning and connecting with his peers.
When Joshua was moved to a 9th home, his teachers feared regression of the emotional and social development he had accomplished at Mi Escuelita. Fortunately, Joshua continued to attend class and expressed to his teachers that he looked forward to school days and was enjoying his new home! Joshua’s guardian is engaged in his learning and happy to have him in her family.
When our team met Jaime earlier this year, we were immediately struck by his commitment to his future. Though he was experiencing an unstable housing situation and officially homeless, he was intent on pursuing his goals.
SBCS staff saw the opportunity to support his resilience and invited him to join our Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP) program, which serves youth county-wide providing academic skill remediation, work readiness and life skill development as well as college and career exploration and preparation.
Since joining the LEAP program Jaime has secured more stable housing and begun studying International Business at Southwestern College with a goal of one day owning his own law firm. Beyond his own dreams and ambitions, he has committed to being a peer mentor so that he can play a leading role in strengthening his peers and community. He has also taken on leadership roles within the LEAP program, even representing our region in a national conference.
Four-year-old Veronica joined SBCS at Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool after returning to San Diego with her mom and sibling as a result of experiencing domestic violence in Northern California, where they previously called home. When we met them, the family was living in their car due to lack of resources and support.
During her first few days at Mi Escuelita, Veronica was quiet and withdrawn. However, with support and encouragement from teachers, she began to interact with peers and became vocal and playful. Veronica performed very well academically and continues to do so today while maintaining her naturally friendly and outgoing personality.
Not only the Mi Escuelita program, but also a variety of SBCS support services were critical to Veronica and her family’s healing and success. Her mom was connected with a Parent Partner, who assisted her in navigating systems and applying for financial supports. They were able to access motel rental assistance and free meals while Mom sought employment and permanent housing.
The family remained resilient and perseverant and are now able to rent a permanent residence while Mom goes on several strong job interviews, follows through with services and continues to be receptive to referrals for support.
*Photo and name changed
Four-year-old Emma enrolled in her first preschool experience at Mi Escuelita this year. Due to her exposure to familial verbal abuse and aggression, her transition was especially challenging. Once in the classroom, Emma quickly showed signs of her early trauma.
At home, Emma used aggression and foul language toward her siblings. In the classroom, she appeared withdrawn from the other children and teachers. When she thought teachers weren’t watching, she would show behaviors such as pushing or taking toys from other children. She did not participate in classroom activities and instead would often isolate and play alone.
In the few months Emma has been at Mi Escuelita, teachers have noticed improvement in her behavior and willingness to participate and play with others. She is now able to share her space and thoughts during circle time and shows less aggressive behavior both at school and at home.
According to her mother, she plays and gets along better with her siblings. Emma’s mother is also working on learning positive discipline and parenting techniques to support her daughter’s development. Staff and teachers at Mi Escuelita have observed a positive change in the relationship between Emma and her caregivers.
*Photo and name changed
Jessica and her three brothers entered the foster system at very young ages after being exposed to domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness and neglect. When they were later adopted, Jessica’s adoptive parents enrolled her at three other preschools that she had to be removed from before coming to Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool. Jessica struggled with following directions, adhering to daily routines, temper tantrums and displays of aggression toward peers and staff.
Upon Jessica’s arrival to Mi Escuelita, the same behaviors were observed. She became easily frustrated and was verbally and physically abusive toward teachers and other students. Within a couple weeks after enrollment, however, Jessica’s tantrums were noticeably less frequent and when she had them, she was able to work through them with patient, supportive and trusted staff by her side.
Jessica now happily attends school every day and is becoming a leader in her classroom. She is helpful and supportive with peers and is able to quickly redirect when feeling anxious or frustrated. Her parents also share that they have seen a decrease in aggression and temper tantrums at home.
*Photo and name changed
Lilly came to Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool from a home with severe domestic violence issues where she witnessed her mother being pinned to the wall by her father with a pen to her throat. She was diagnosed with autism and had been assigned an Individualized Education Program before arriving at Mi Escuelita.
In her first days and weeks at the school, Lilly was withdrawn and preferred to play by herself. While she and her mom were working with her program
therapist, Lilly disclosed an incident of sexual abuse by her father. In response, her therapist intensified individual and family therapy to help support Lilly and her mom through the healing process.
Although her mom struggled with finding employment, she did all she could to support Lilly’s well-being while navigating court and restraining order processes, and remained present and engaged in therapy.
Lilly continued opening up to her therapist and, with time, began integrating more and more with her peers. She is now a happy and lively child showing great social and verbal skills, recently graduated Mi Escuelita and is thriving in kindergarten.
*Photo and name changed
Allie was three years old when enrolled in Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool after experiencing significant trauma while living with her mom, who suffered from severe mental health challenges. Allie, her younger brother and mom were found naked but unharmed on the curb outside their home after her mom lit the house on fire.
Allie was quiet and withdrawn when she began attending Mi Escuelita. She appeared nervous and scared around other children and adults. School fire drills were a trigger for Allie — she would become very frightened when the fire alarm sounded. Teachers and therapists were always by Allie’s side during these drills and in other times of distress for her, making sure she knew she was safe.
Allie slowly began engaging with her teachers and therapists, who set the pace for things to evolve. Soon Allie was making friends and playing alongside them. She is now in Pre-K and considered a role model for other children. Allie takes new students under her wing and is nurturing with them, teaching them classroom rules and reminding them they are safe here.
*Photo and name changed
David and his younger sister and brother had been separated in different foster homes before their adoptive parents went through the challenging process of reuniting them and establishing their permanent home and family. David had been on the verge of being removed from his previous preschool program due to outbursts and aggression when the three children were enrolled in Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool.
Although some of David’s difficult behaviors persisted in the new setting, his parents and school staff worked together to assess and respond to his needs, and soon his outbursts lessened and aggression ceased completely. He began bonding with teachers, succeeding in the program and became a role model for other students. David is now in Pre-K and thriving.
David’s younger siblings are also both doing very well and showing their unique personalities through tailored programming. Their parents are active participants in all parent engagement activities and maintain great communication with teachers and management to best support their children.
*Photo and name changed
When Alvin first arrived at Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool, his mom shared with staff that he often displayed physical aggression toward other children, ignored adults and struggled with toilet training. His family of four had recently moved into a studio apartment after fights and arguments with former housemates that Alvin and his younger sibling were exposed to. The Mi Escuelita team immediately referred his parents to housing, food, childcare, employment and education support services upon assessment of their needs.
Despite many behavioral challenges, Alvin could also be caring and helpful. He loved and excelled at sports. Alvin’s therapist worked with him and his mom to develop goals around improving his social skills, decreasing the time he needed to calm down and potty training. The team connected them to behavioral services, speech assessments and classes, vision and hearing screenings for Alvin. He was provided glasses and — along with other continued resources and support —Alvin seemed to become a different child.
Alvin began to ignore staff less, engaged in more verbal interactions, allowed them to comfort him and gave hugs often. Meanwhile, his mom became more engaged and involved as well. As a result of this collaboration, Alvin’s assessment scores began to increase. He became potty trained, moved up to the next classroom level, and has adjusted well with his new class and therapist. His academic scores are increasing, he has made respectful relationships with other children, and he smiles and chats all day long.
*Photo and name changed
Arturo and his younger brother, Zeke, came to Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool a year into their foster care placement. They were anxious at the beginning of their time in the program, fearing naptime, uncertain of being separated from one another and worried that their foster mother would not return for them.
The siblings’ Mi Escuelita therapist and teachers worked attentively with them on decreasing their anxiety through specialized curriculum and activities as well as group therapy. When Arturo and Zeke were eventually removed from foster care placement and returned to the home of their biological grandparents, their therapist collaborated with other social service providers to ensure they would continue services at Mi Escuelita. The boys’ grandparents are appreciative of the program and the care it has provided them.
Both children are now thriving and no longer present anxious behaviors. Arturo is kindergarten ready and preparing for graduation. Zeke has healthy eating habits now, plays with other children, and is known for his contagious laugher.
*Photo and name changed
Sandy called SBCS’ 24/7 Domestic Violence Response Hotline seeking assistance in fleeing from her husband and the father of her two daughters, who had tendencies for outrage and violence. On the morning Sandy and her daughters arrived at SBCS’ Casas Seguras shelter for victims of domestic violence, her husband rampaged from each of her family members’ homes to the next searching for them, destroying property and making death threats.
With the collaboration of four police departments and shelter staff, Sandy’s husband was arrested in less than 48 hours and she was able to breathe a bit easier. Their first day at the shelter, Sandy’s youngest daughter approached staff with a hug and said “Thank you for keeping my Mommy safe.”
During Sandy’s stay at Casas Seguras, she was able to work with a therapist and Parent Partner to focus on her mental health. Soon after, she returned to work and began saving money. After assessing for safety and with her husband still in jail, Sandy and her daughters were later able to return to their home and will soon be relocating to a different residence utilizing the rental assistance voucher the SBCS team was also able to provide her.
*Photo and name changed
Carmen entered SBCS’ Casas Seguras shelter for victims of domestic violence with her six children after fleeing from an abusive relationship with her husband.
New to San Diego, Carmen quickly found employment and transferred into the agency’s Casa de Luz Transitional Housing program, where she sought to save money, pay off an eviction, and work toward self-sufficiency.
Shortly after her transition to this program, Carmen — like many other working Americans — had her work hours reduced and was eventually a laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Determined to get her job back, she communicated diligently with her employer and was eventually able to return to work for a few hours per week.
Months later and back in her work routine, Carmen was fortunate enough to find a place to rent with the assistance of an SBCS rental support program, where her and her children now live. Carmen continues to work hard to provide stability and safety for her family.
*Photo and name changed
One evening, Ana frantically called SBCS’ 24/7 Domestic Violence Response Hotline during her attempt to flee from her abusive husband and the father of her young child. Ana was referred to SBCS by her neighbor who had previously benefitted from the agency’s services.
Although SBCS’ Casas Seguras shelter for victims of domestic violence was full at the time, the team was able to place Ana and her son in a hotel using grant funds. When a unit became available, Ana and her son moved into Casas Seguras.
Ana was initially very frightened and timid, aware of few resources and, with her native language being Persian, challenged to navigate information on her own. Still, she worked diligently with a case manager while at the shelter and took advantage of every resource extended to her.
Eventually Ana transferred to SBCS’ Casa de Luz Transitional Housing program, where she was able to gain employment and provide stability for herself and her son. Later, Ana was connected to SBCS’ Rapid Rehousing program and found a rental of her own with the assistance of SBCS partner-funded housing support. Throughout her time with SBCS, Ana also enrolled her son in the agency’s Mi Escuelita therapeutic preschool, and participated in Community Services for Families parenting classes. Thanks to Ana’s determination and resilience and the aid of SBCS resources, she is now living a safe and stable life with her son.
*Photo and name changed
One of a number of new challenges the COVID-19 pandemic brought on for victims of domestic violence was the decision to make a number of local inmates eligible for early release. SBCS’ domestic violence advocates acted quickly to encourage clients to ensure they were registered with the Department of Corrections’ Victim Services inmate release notification system in order to receive notification if their abuser became eligible for early release.
Jane was one of many SBCS clients impacted by the early release policy. She had done everything necessary to keep herself and her four children safe, but received notice that her abusive husband who had threatened her life and still had four more years of his sentence to serve was scheduled to be released within a couple short months due to COVID-19.
This news sent Jane into a panic as she didn’t have the money saved or support needed to move. She could not think straight or eat, and claimed she felt as if she was losing her mind imagining seeing her husband at her front door.
SBCS’ domestic violence advocates stepped in to help, securing the deposit and part of first month’s rent for a new place, as well as some furniture and décor to make the apartment feel more like home. Jane moved, filed her order of protection and worked with staff to complete the “Safe @ Home” application process to keep her new address confidential.
Now safely in her new apartment, Jane says she’s not feeling like she’s walking backwards anymore, but rather forward towards a brighter future; which she states that she and her four children all owe to the care she received from SBCS.
*Photo and name changed
An SBCS domestic violence advocate responded to a call to SBCS’ 24/7 Domestic Violence Response Hotline from Gloria, a client in distress, reporting that she was the victim of a physically and verbally abusive relationship with a well-known criminal and in the process of escaping.
Gloria was open to hearing about any and all resources and eager to move forward with services. She was not from San Diego and had no family or support system nearby to lean on. The SBCS advocate arranged a three-week hotel stay for Gloria and also assisted her in obtaining medical insurance, arranging for counseling and obtaining full-time employment.
Gloria is now staying with a friend she made through her new job while looking for an apartment to rent with the help of one of SBCS’s voucher rental subsidy programs for victims of domestic violence. Gloria’s Family Violence Support Services liaison will continue to connect her with local resources and support through the process of healing and finding safe and stable housing.
*Photo and name changed
When SBCS’ Domestic Violence Response Team received a call from law enforcement requesting their support in responding to an incident between Gemma and her boyfriend, they arrived on the scene to learn that her boyfriend had been taken into custody for felony domestic violence and Gemma was in great need of a number of services.
Although fearful and unsure about speaking with authorities, Gemma eventually disclosed that she struggled with bipolar disorder and her boyfriend often hid her medication from her; had beaten, strangled and suffocated her in many unreported instances throughout their three-year relationship; and kept weapons in the home. Gemma’s SBCS domestic violence advocate worked with an officer on the scene to issue her an Emergency Protective Order upon Gemma’s decision to seek one and helped her arrange to stay with her brother for the night, before following up the next day to collaborate on a strategy to leave San Diego for her safety.
Gemma had many family members and friends in Utah, including one welcoming her to stay with them. Gemma’s SBCS advocate helped her apply for travel assistance as well as refill her medication, obtain a Temporary Restraining Order and get in contact with her mother, who also lived in Utah. The advocate also connected her to another victim’s advocate at the District Attorney’s office to support with applying for additional compensation and inform her of the status of her boyfriend’s case — he was being held with no bail.
A few weeks later, Gemma received the travel assistance and went home to Utah to stay with her friend and mother. She checked in periodically, updating her SBCS advocate on her renewed relationship with her children and the stabilization of her disorder. With advocate and family support, Gemma felt strong enough to eventually return to San Diego to testify in court. Her ex-boyfriend was sentenced to three years in jail and she was granted a Criminal Protective Order. Gemma is currently employed in Utah and has regular visitation with her children.
*Photo and name changed
Another local agency placed a call to SBCS’ 24/7 Domestic Violence Response Hotline seeking help for Mary, a 40-year-old mother of three attempting to flee her emotionally abusive and highly controlling husband. Mary’s husband had isolated her and prevented her from returning to her home country while also refusing to allow her to learn English, work or have access to money.
Mary only spoke Arabic and this was a significant barrier for her. She struggled to communicate her needs to service providers and had not been able to access help despite having reached out to many other agencies. SBCS staff utilized translation resources and learned that Mary had no car, was not allowed to work, had no friends or family in the United States and did not understand any of the resources available to her. In addition to her husband being abusive, one of Mary’s teenage children was also physically abusive toward her and it was not safe for her to return home.
SBCS staff reached out to a local organization working specifically with Middle Eastern refugees to collaborate and effectively support Mary. Through this collaborative effort and a translator, SBCS was able to offer Mary shelter in a hotel where she stayed safe while her case manager worked to identify appropriate resources for her well-being and healing.
*Photo and name changed
Liz and her one-year-old daughter entered SBCS’ Casas Seguras shelter for victims of domestic violence after fleeing physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband. She had previously sought refuge at another local shelter, but there her husband continued to stalk and harass her and she was asked to leave. Liz ultimately found a safe home for her and her daughter at Casa Seguras.
Despite the trauma she had experienced, Liz was highly motivated to make positive changes for herself and her young daughter. While staying in the shelter, she started a culinary training program with Kitchens for Good and applied for nutrition and financial assistance. Eventually, she transitioned to SBCS’ Casa de Luz Transitional Housing program, completed and graduated from the culinary training program and secured a job in the food industry.
Liz’s commitment to becoming self-sufficient made her an ideal candidate for SBCS’ Rapid Rehousing program. With the support this program and staff provided, Liz was able to finalize her divorce and obtain full custody of her daughter. Most recently, she was promoted to manager at her work. Liz successfully completed the Rapid Rehousing program and plans to continue renting her current home. She no longer receives public assistance and is well on her way to self-sufficiency.
*Photo and name changed
Fleeing domestic violence and an unsafe home life, Ayona found herself in San Diego. She was connected to SBCS by Southwestern College Student Services and provided safe and stable housing in a small studio, as well as a,number of supportive services, through SBCS’ Transitional Living Program for youth experiencing homelessness.
Ayona enthusiastically engaged in financial literacy classes and mental health services. She opened a bank account and began to save the money she earned as a tutor, soon even receiving a $500 savings match through the Community in Action program. She took advantage of opportunities in her fields of interest, including internships with local government campaigns, leadership roles at Southwestern College and in SBCS’ Youth Action Board focused on elevating the voices of youth in the South Bay who have experienced homelessness.
Ayona’s longtime dream was to attend a four-year university and serve her community through law and public office. While in SBCS’ program, she completed and submitted all of her university applications and graduated with an AA in political science. Ayona was accepted to UCLA and awarded financial package that covered her student housing, recently moving in and beginning her first semester. She has already become UCLA Student Government’s Chief of Staff of Operations for the Office of the President, a position rarely offered to a first-year transfer student. She continues to lead SBCS’ Youth Action Board efforts from afar.
Ayona says, “Without SBCS and its Transitional Living Program, I wouldn’t have been able to finish my associates and transfer to my dream school. They provided me the resources and stability I needed to succeed.”
*Photo and name changed
Jasmine has been involved in SBCS programs since she was a teenager. With our help, she was able to gain employment skills, practical skills for independent living and home management, and mental health support all while furthering her education as she transitioned out of high school and onto Southwestern College.
At 21 years old, Jasmine has been able to manage her home and finances responsibly, purchase a car, and develop interpersonal skills valuable to both professional and personal settings. She has worked as a caregiver for adults with disabilities and discovered a passion for helping others.
Jasmine repeatedly comes back to staff to talk about how she now understands how they were able to be so patient with her and values all the lessons they taught her over the years. She frequently shares, “I remember when you told me not to quit a job until I have another one lined up. It’s called having a plan” and reiterates lessons learned like, “I need to take a breath and calm down, it is not good to just react to things.”
Jasmine now demonstrates a deeper level of understanding when it comes to her mental health and the positive impacts of therapy. She works hard to ensure she doesn’t miss any sessions and actively practices coping skills to help her better manage both positive and negative events in her life.
*Photo and name changed
As a participant in SBCS’ Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential program — which supports youth with high school graduation, enrollment into postsecondary programs and access to work experience and employment — Tania disclosed that she was experiencing homelessness as a result of family members that it was unsafe to be around. Her fiancé was in the Navy but was deployed, leaving her nowhere to live.
Tania was connected to SBCS’ Transitional Living Program for youth experiencing homelessness and instantly became a leader in her home there. As her confidence grew, Tania was able to successfully focus on personal goals, including medical care to treat pain she had been experiencing for years; mental health services and obtaining an emotional support animal; and career exploration. Tania had always had interest in working with children and considered pediatric nursing.
While in the Transitional Living Program, she began volunteering at Castle Park Elementary School and successfully completed a job training program offered by Kaiser and SBCS. She then re-enrolled in college with hopes of majoring in Child Development.
When Tania’s fiancé returned to San Diego eight months after she moved into transitional living, they planned a civil ceremony. Tania expressed her sadness that she had no family who would be part of that. When she arrived home from the courthouse, she was welcomed by a party thrown by her peers in the Transitional Living Program.
Tania says that the best thing about SBCS’ Transitional Living Program “is that it is a safe environment for youth who are struggling in the real world. In this safe and caring environment, I was able to expand my decisions to create the life I really want.” Tania is now living with her husband in Navy housing.
*Photo and name changed
Living with his siblings and father in their car after his father lost his job, Francisco experienced unsafe conditions and food insecurity, and missed about two years of school. Upon learning this, Francisco’s counselor connected him to SBCS’ Transitional Living Program for youth experiencing homelessness.
While in the program, Francisco completed his credits and earned his high school diploma. He was connected to various educational and employment readiness programs, including SBCS’ Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential program, which supports with high school graduation, enrollment into postsecondary programs and access to work experience and employment. With the help of these resources, Francisco gained independent living and financial literacy skills. He also enrolled at Southwestern College as the first in his family to go to college and obtained his first job in the school’s cafeteria.
After eight months in SBCS’ Transitional Living Program, Francisco transitioned to the agency’s Rapid Rehousing program that provides housing placement, rent and move-in assistance, and case management. A year later, Francisco is now working full-time at Vons and paying 30 percent of his income toward rent for the apartment he secured through the program.
Francisco says “TLP has a lot of resources. I have built another family for me that I was comfortable with and that I could trust. I learned to never give up. No matter how hard the circumstances are, there is still hope for your dreams.”
*Photo and name changed
Nehemias Pedroza first learned about SBCS’ Academic Advocate program during his senior year at Castle Park High School in 2014, via our Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood. Throughout the school year, the team helped Nehemias explore career paths and universities that aligned with his goals. Nehemias’ hard work and commitment came to fruition when he was accepted at San Diego State University.
After starting at SDSU in fall 2015, Nehemias continued to take advantage of every opportunity to ensure academic success. He remained connected with the Academic Advocate program, including serving as a college ambassador for his school. He shared his college experience and learnings with seniors at Castle Park High School and Hilltop High School.
As time went by, Nehemias and his advocate began discussing plans after graduation. After weighing his options, Nehemias decided to pursue paralegal program at the University of San Diego and began shortly after earning his Bachelor’s degree in political science.
During his last year of paralegal program, Nehemias networked and earned an internship position with the City of Chula Vista’s City Attorney Glen Googins and gained first-hand field experience over the course of three months. Since completing the first internship, Nehemias was connected to another internship through SBCS with Meyers Nave, where he was then hired as paralegal!