Written by Sheila Ferrufino.
This is the story of one woman’s transformation. A woman who, with courage, hope, and housing, could completely turn her life around.
To fully grasp the magnitude of this transformation, let’s go back to the year 2014 in the state of Nebraska. This woman, who we will refer to as Erica, was experiencing a life of fear, pain, and anguish. She was suffering from Major Depressive Disorder, but even worse, Erica was in a dangerously abusive relationship. Domestic violence was her daily reality. The abuse was so terrible, Erica eventually developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
She had a part-time job, but with two small children, her mental health problems, and the domestic violence, she had to stop working. Erica did not know what to do. But something inside of Erica wanted more for herself and her daughters. Erica never thought this would be her fate; she had hopes for a better future. She dreamed of getting her G.E.D. Her ultimate goal was to go to cosmetology school and have her own business in making people look beautiful.
But her dreams seemed out of reach, as she was struggling just to maintain her and her children’s survival. She had nowhere to go and no financial resources, but despite this, she had the strength and courage to take herself and her daughters out of a severely abusive environment. She became fed up and tired of fearing for the safety of herself and her two young daughters.
Erica took action. She got full custody of her daughters and a court-ordered restraining order against her abuser, the father of her daughters. She needed to escape her predicament. She had a sister in California, and so she bravely decided to take the dive and leave. She moved to California.
However, all was not well. In California, they found that her sister’s had a very small apartment with an occupancy limit that would not allow Erica and her girls to stay there for long. Erica was once more in a desperate situation; to keep her family off the streets, her and her daughters ended up moving into an inoperable, illegally parked trailer.
It had no electricity or running water. As if that were not bad enough, the trailer was scheduled to be repossessed! Erica was overwhelmed, but she was a very smart woman with a strong spirit who knew she badly needed help. She reached out to Ventura County Behavioral Health and set up mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment. The county became aware that Erica and her children were homeless, and they began referring her to housing resources.
This led to Erica being referred to Many Mansions, where she went through the intake and assessment process. Before long, Erica and her daughters were housed at the Many Mansions site, Peppertree Apartments. Finally, she had a place of her own- a safe and stable home for her and her young daughters.
Now that Erica had a home, she could focus on establishing the mental health and basic stability that her and her daughters were so in need of—and living in Supportive Housing at Many Mansions allowed her to do just that.
Erica reaped the benefits of having consistent support and program activities provided by Many Mansions Case Management, such as workshops based on recovery, parenting, community safety, financial literacy, vocational/educational preparation, health/wellness and so much more. Erica was also able to use Case Management services for her and her children’s ongoing needs like food, children’s services, goal setting, budgeting, and other basic necessities.
Erica and her girls steadily became more and more stable and strong, and soon Erica would be actively engaged in the Simi Valley Department of Recreation. This led her to getting her G.E.D. and enrolling into the Cosmetology Program at the Simi Institute for Careers and Educations. Erica studied hard in her program. She was extremely driven and determined to accomplish her goals and be a positive role-model for her daughters. She would enthusiastically and generously volunteer to cut, color, style etc. her friends’ and neighbors’ hair to build her experience.
By December of 2017, Erica graduated from the Cosmetology Program and had her heart and mind set on her big dream of becoming a state licensed cosmetologist and having her own business. She was eager to take the state licensing exam. She studied continuously for months and was nervous about taking this all-important exam. Finally, the big day of her exam arrived.
I remember seeing Erica at the grocery store right after her exam as she was participating in Many Mansions’ food assistance shopping trips that day. Erica was smiling from ear to ear, just beaming with joy. She had passed the exam. There was a palpable air of accomplishment and relief emanating from Erica, which was truly inspiring.
Erica and her family were also approved for a Section 8 voucher in 2019, and they recently secured a larger unit to have more space in another supportive housing program. This is great news as her rent will continue to be 30% of her income while upgrading to a home that will better accommodate her family, which has grown to 4 children. Erica and her family are moving on to bigger and better things!
Since entering Many Mansions, Erica has progressed and maintained a stable, successful life where her and her children are able to thrive. Erica’s story is a wonderful example of how, when there are hope and homes, lives can truly be transformed.