Gloria: ‘Everything I expected, everything I needed, it’s here’

With just two months left until graduation, Gloria has been looking forward to that milestone. But she knows that her journey doesn’t end there. She is planning to enter the Lighthouse’s transitional living program and eventually live on her own.

Gloria receives social security payments, as she can’t work due to psychological issues, but she plans to volunteer and stay sober. At 40, Gloria knows that drugs and alcohol are out of her life for good. She’s been sober since she got to the Lighthouse about eight months ago.

“I thank God every day that I am here,” she said. “Everything I expected, everything I needed, it’s all here.”

Gloria grew up in Ventura with her mother, stepfather, and seven children. She went to a continuation school, but didn’t graduate. “I got into drugs and got pregnant at 17,” she said. “The system wanted me to finish school and get a job, and that meant I couldn’t take care of my daughter. I had to leave her with a babysitter, and she would cry with the babysitter. I quit working and quit going to school. She was in my custody for two years before she went to my sister.”

Gloria had three more children after that. “My son went into the system to be adopted when he was 2,” she said. “The other two they took them away from the hospital right after I delivered.”

Gloria didn’t use during her pregnancies, but started up again after their births. “I got back on drugs and became homeless,” she said. “I was in and out of jail, hanging around gang members.”

Gloria’s aunt brought her to the Lighthouse shelter when her son was 18 months old. “I don’t remember what happened then,” she said. “I left because I was too messed up in my head from being high. I came back because I was aware of what they had to offer. I remembered how it was. I wanted to come to the Lighthouse so I could better myself I didn’t want to continue to use anymore. It was all just so bad.”

Her family has done everything they can to help her, Gloria said. “I struggle with my family. I burned all my bridges with my family and friends. This was the last straw, the last help they were going to give me. After this, if I mess it up I don’t have anyone to turn to.”

But Gloria is determined to follow this new path. And the Lighthouse is strengthening her every day. “I’m getting everything I need from them,” she said. “I fell on hard times, and this is my opportunity to get on my feet, and not depend on family and friends and my sister. I found amazing people in here.”

Gloria, who struggles with her mental health, said she’s more confident about making a life for herself after graduation. “The program has really been helping me a lot,” she said. “They show me how to be independent, and I’ve been learning life skills. They prepare you for the outside world, so when I get housing, I’ll be able to cook and clean for myself, and do chores outside, things like that. It shows you the importance of taking showers every day, and having basic food and clothing. I appreciate it all so much.”

Gloria is looking forward to graduation and moving into the transitional living program. She is hoping for restoration with at least one her children. “My first daughter was old enough to talk for herself in court (many years ago),” she said. “The judge asked where she wanted to be placed, if she wanted to live with her mom. She said no. So she went a group home.”

Now 21, Gloria’s daughter receives a grant from a Native American association that helps with housing. “I call her and stuff, but we still need work. I need to work to have a better relationship with my daughter.”

Her other three children have been adopted, and the adoption terms were confidential and mean no contact. “I have to wait until they’re 18 until they get a hold of me,” she said. “I just have to have a lot of patience.”

Program Manager Rene Camper said Gloria is an incredible example of faith. "Gloria has demonstrated how perseverance and trusting God can help to change a person's life,” she said. “We are so proud of her."