Viviana, who just turned 74, grew up in a small town in Mexico. In fact, the town was so small, there was no doctor. Viviana birthed 12 children, but only five are still alive.
After her husband passed away three years ago, Viviana struggled to make ends meet. She stayed in her small town for a year, but she couldn’t find work or afford to live on her own. She spent time with her son in Washington before joining her daughter and son-in-law with their two children, in Oxnard. But that arrangement was short lived. “He drank and he was abusive,” said Viviana of her son-in-law. “We were in trouble.”
The family had to leave, and soon Viviana, her daughter, Lupe, and her two grandchildren, ages 6 and 15, were homeless. They moved into a motel for a month on a voucher. There was no kitchen, so Lupe had to pick up prepared food, or go to free grocery distributions. Eventually, they heard about the shelter at the Lighthouse. “I feel really good here, like I am at home,” Viviana said. “I am at peace. They treat me so good here.”
The family has been in the shelter three different times in the last year. After their first stay, Lupe became employed and they moved out, renting a room in a house. “The room wasn’t good,” said Tina, a Lighthouse staff member. “After two weeks, the children and them ended up with these sores all over. They went to the hospital and then came back here. The room had bugs. The grandson had them all over him, they all did. When they came and showed us, we told them to leave the house and come back here.”
During their second stay, Viviana got very sick. “Lupe was working, but Viviana was still doing side work,” Tina said. “She got really sick. We kept telling her that Lupe will take care of her, but she also feels this obligation to make money.” The family went to Mexico for a special lung treatment for Viviana. She could not afford the procedure here in the United States.
Since they’ve been back, Viviana is feeling much better, Lupe is working, and the children are in school. The family has been working with Oxnard Housing and is hoping for a voucher to come through soon. Meanwhile, Viviana couldn’t be happier. She was beaming talking about a recent visit by a church group. “They brought brand new clothes,” she said. “That was very special.”
Tina said she is happy to see Viviana content at the moment. “I know she likes it here because we praise the Lord and she loves the Lord,” Tina said. “She goes to church every day. She participates.”
Viviana said she “loves everything” at the Lighthouse: “The prayer, the praise and worship, and the staff. I really feel like I’m home. Jesus suffered for us. He’s the only one that gives life. I’m grateful to be alive here. God gives a lot here.”