With her graduation from the Lighthouse program approaching this month, Samantha is feeling optimistic about her future. “I’m feeling really good about everything,” she said, smiling. “Life is so good right now.”
Samantha wasn’t always as hopeful. She grew up in Oxnard with her parents and three younger siblings. “I went to church as a little girl with my aunt and uncle, and we went to bible studies,” she said. “I guess I sort of fell away from it getting into my teen years.”
Samantha fell into the wrong crowd and dropped out of high school just five credits short of her diploma. “I was hanging out with bad kids, I guess you could say. I started using and used from when I was 18 until recently,” said Samantha, now 32. “It’s just been downhill from there.”
Samantha met her boyfriend when she was 20. He’s a mechanic and supported her, so she didn’t work. They both used drugs, and Samantha said she was in and out of jail until she got pregnant with her first child five years ago. “When I had my kids, I slowed down,” she said. “They saved my life, I would say. I’d be in the street with my kids’ dad without them. I never used again like I was using before I stopped when I got pregnant, but I didn’t quit. I would do OK for a while and then I’d go back to it because he was using.”
Nine months ago, police came to their home. Her kids’ father was arrested for selling drugs out of their garage. Samantha was arrested over an old warrant. The couple’s two young children—Mila, 4, and Fernando, 1—were taken by Child Protective Services. “It was the first time anything has ever happened with my kids,” Samantha said. “My daughter was traumatized. She still brings it up to this day. Just yesterday on the bus she said, ‘Remember Mommy, when the lady came for me and you went to jail?’ It was really hard.”
Samantha’s aunt stepped in and the kids then went to stay with her sister-in-law for three months. “They were with family, but they still had trauma. My son had separation anxiety and other issues. He’s good now. He’s so happy, he glows with his big blue eyes.” The kids were reunited with their mom at the Lighthouse in February. “They were my valentines,” she said.
Samantha’s stay at the Lighthouse has not only facilitated her kids’ return, but
also a reconnection with Christ. “I was iffy about the Lighthouse because it was faith-based and I wasn’t sure I was into that,” she said. “But since I’ve been here my eyes have been opened. I’ve drawn a lot closer to the Lord. Coming here was meant to be. It was all God.”
The other women in the program have also been a big comfort. “I haven’t had friends in a long time,” she said. “Having friends, that helps a lot. And the staff as well, they are really good. You can go to them at any time and they have prayer for you and answers to things you don’t even know.
“It was a lot at first, but I was ready for it. Since I got pregnant with my son, I just knew I was done. I told my kids’ father I didn’t want to live like this anymore. He kept doing what he was doing, but I was already looking at programs that would accept me and my kids. I separated myself from him, knowing that something bad could happen. I’m so glad I did or I could be in the same mess as him. I would’ve been going to prison with him.”
Samantha is set to graduate this month and will move on to the transitional housing program. She is completing her final high school units, and is interested in going to college.