Most families enjoy spending summer days in public parks; fresh air and plenty of sunshine provide a chance for relaxation and quality time. However, the allure of a public park quickly fades when it shifts from a place to play into a replacement home.
“I loved the park the first day,” says 13 year-old Tasha. “It wasn’t the Walmart parking lot. But after living in our car for a summer, the park isn’t so beautiful anymore.”
Gabby, Phillip, and their young children Matt and Tasha, spent seven weeks living out of their van, before finding a home in an EAH Housing community. The van was only supposed to be a temporary measure, one or two days at the most.
Phillip is a full-time retail store manager and his wife Gabby was recently certified as a medical technician. However, in the months after Gabby finished her training, she could not find any entry level positions in the field. Unable to live off of Phillip’s paycheck alone, the family decided to move to a new town with more job opportunities. Phillip secured a job-transfer, and the family headed for California’s Silicon Valley.
With unprecedented economic growth in the region, Silicon Valley seemed like a safe bet for the family. But what they also found was a much more expensive housing market. They stayed in a hotel for a few weeks while Gabby looked for work. And when that became too expensive, they decided to spend a night or two in their van.
“A night became a week. A week became seven. Seven Thursdays I cried in the van looking at Phillip’s paycheck, when I realized it wasn’t enough for a deposit, or even a hotel room,” Gabby said.
Gathered in the bright community room of their new apartment home, the family is striking in its liveliness. Four year old Matt dashes around like a miniature superhero. Tasha, who just started the 8th grade, carries herself with the confidence of a young-adult, and has the wit to match. The family now enjoys the safety and comfort of a permanent home, and is committed to sharing this joy with their neighbors.
“There are so many people facing so many challenges, and if we’re going to survive we need to help each other out,” says Gabby. “We lived in our van – we have a van. So, if my neighbors need rides to the store, or sometimes the emergency room, we are there for them. God knows we do what we can.” The family is now able to take more steps towards securing a brighter future for their children. Gabby’s belief in “paying it forward” exemplifies the family’s resilience, and the heart behind affordable housing.