The day Alondra first met the team from Aspiranet’s Intensive Home-Based Services Wraparound program, she wasn’t up for visitors. It happened to be her 16th birthday, and the team arrived at the motel room where she was staying with her parents and offered a cake and present.
“I was like: I don’t want that;” Alondra recalls. “I don’t want a bunch of new strangers in my house wanting to know about me.”
She softened a bit when Wraparound facilitator Adam Corral asked what she needed. It wasn’t what you usually hear from someone turning 16, he said. She didn’t want a car or a phone; she wanted a safe place for her family to live.
Support counselor Erica Jacquez suggested the two of them go have lunch. “We went out to Chipotle, and she just opened up,” Erica said. “She started talking to me, sharing about her life experiences, what she’d gone through.”
Alondra told Erica about how she had recently been reunited with her parents, who had turned their lives around after substance abuse problems had led to the placement of their six children in foster homes. Alondra and one of her brothers were back, and the family was looking for more permanent housing as a court hearing to reunite the four youngest boys approached. The motel where they were living was known for drugs, gangs and prostitution. Next door was a tent city that the family feared was their next step if they could not find an affordable apartment that would give them a chance.
Over time, Erica and Alondra bonded over food and other shared interests. “We got really close,” Alondra said. With Erica’s guidance, Alondra set up a bank account, got her birth certificate, enrolled in school and found a job.
At the same time, other members of the Aspiranet team worked with Alondra’s parents. “We were in the motel room and the team just came in, sat on the beds and made themselves comfortable like they were part of the family,” said Alondra’s mother, Misty. “It set our nervousness aside.”
Parent partner Linnet Slater said Misty shared her concerns about finding food, permanent housing, even diapers for her young twin sons. “She had very real concerns, and I reassured her that we were here for her and her family,” Linnet said. “And that just started this beautiful blossom of a friendship that we’ve developed.”
Misty felt heard and understood. “They showed that love and that compassion right out of the gate,” she said.
With Aspiranet’s help, the family finally was able to secure an apartment after repeatedly being turned away. The Aspiranet team also helped them get a van so the eight of them would not have to rely on buses to access food, work and school.
“To get the phone call that yes, we have an apartment on the 1st, knowing we were going into court on the 1st to get the other four boys back–that I was going to have a home to take them to–that changed everything,” Misty said. Misty and her husband Albert found work, and they have since moved to a second apartment with more room for the kids.
The family celebrated their reunification by attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting together. “I just thought that was so awesome that their way of celebrating was being sober and being together as a family,” Adam said. “The families we work with are so courageous; it takes tremendous courage to break cycles, and we’re talking generational cycles.”