There’s a homeless mom in our program who has three boys. The oldest boy is on the autism spectrum. He’s in fourth grade and this is his seventh school. The mom approached me after one of our sessions recently and nervously mentioned that she will have to leave the shelter at the end of December. She shared how worried she was about leaving this school and all the support the boys have here. But knowing that LAUSD has “schools of choice” for homeless families (meaning they can continue at their home school, even if they can’t prove residency), I let her know that she didn’t have to move them to a new school, we could help her get a permit no matter where she lives so that the boys can stay enrolled here. I offered to fill the paperwork out for her, and there was a huge sense of relief that washed across her face, knowing someone was in her corner, that she wasn’t shouldering all of her immense burden alone. And I felt like if all we do this year is help her keep her kids at Eagle Rock Elementary that’s enough.
I had been looking for low-income housing for myself, so that evening I sent her some links for area rentals that I knew she would qualify for. This part of my job feels like showing up for people, being with people, who are doing their absolute best to make it in the world. This mom is working, taking the bus from her shelter to the school, and doing the herculean task of securing childcare while she works. She’s parenting three traumatized kids alone. She’s planning to go back to school in January. She’s looking for housing, she’s in counseling…she’s got so much going for her, and yet something as small as transferring the kids to another new school can begin to unravel all this work.
If we can just help her know we are with her and we can help support her…we can’t fix her life, we can’t change everything for her boys…but it was a moment that made me feel like I have learned something useful in my 10 years here. The value of presence, as well as a working knowledge of the resources available to families in our community.
So, we keep showing up, even though we know only a fraction of what the kids and their families are experiencing. I think of the faith of our mentors, showing up each day, going to Kids Hope not knowing what’s going to happen, but trusting that something is happening ultimately (or they wouldn’t keep doing it). We dispose ourselves to the unknown in a sense, dislocate ourselves from the comfort of our lives, trusting something is happening, even when we don’t recognize it or feel it. Our mood is inherently unstable, but God is not.