For the past three years, Elaine DaSilva and her 9-year-old son Jordan have been on a roller-coaster ride of homelessness, often sleeping in shelters and friends’ homes.
DaSilva and her son had lived in an apartment in Victorville. She had her own tax business. But “life,” she said, got in the way and things started to crumble. Her father died, and the fight over his will with other half siblings took its toll. Her business started to diminish. It didn’t help either that she was commuting from Los Angeles to Victorville everyday for a job.
Little by little, things got more and more complicated. At the end she could no longer afford her $800 rent and was evicted.
Since then she’s crashed on friends’ and family’s couches, and even in some clients’ homes. She’s worked here and there, but nothing permanent or providing enough to cover rent.
“I just exhausted everything,” says the single mom, who for the past three months has been living at the San Fernando Rescue Mission shelter.
The experience has taught her the important things in life, she said.
“Today I’m thankful that I have a relationship with God,” DaSilva said. “This has taught me to see what’s really important in life. It’s helped me build character and that’s something nobody can take away from me.
“I’ve learned to be thankful and grateful for what I have,” she added.
But Christmas is a difficult time, nonetheless. Nine-year-olds still want “Santa” to bring toys, something that gets difficult when one doesn’t have a regular paycheck.
“He (Jordan) wants an iPad, and I’m like ‘slow down,’ we’re just happy to have a roof over our heads.’ I’ve never been one to want big things. I’m a very simple person. If I don’t get something, it’s okay,” DaSilva said.
Having A Merry Christmas
Still, Jordan loves Legos, and needs a coat and shoes. DaSilva also needs a coat with a hood.
Those kind of Christmas wishes, and others, will be granted this Saturday, Dec. 20, at the second annual San Fernando Rescue Mission’s “Holiday Dignity Store” where parents who are currently staying at the shelter or have been former clients, receive vouchers they can use to “purchase” toys and clothing of their choosing at a special holiday store.
In total, some 30 families (about 120 adults and children) have been selected to take part in the event, said Wade Trimmer, San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission executive director.
“It’s a reunion and celebration, where current clients can be inspired by other folks who have overcome similar obstacles,” Trimmer said.
The families will arrive at the Every Nation Church in Van Nuys on Saturday. There will be a children’s area, entertainment and food. Then parents will be assigned a personal shopper to help them select toys and clothing, and then move to a gift-wrapping area before heading back to their children with “arms filled with presents,” Trimmer said.
He added the idea for the event is to “give parents dignity so that it doesn’t seem like a stranger is giving their children presents.”
Trimmer described the event as one full of joy, happiness and tears.
He recounted that a volunteer on her way to the event last year saw a mother with two kids begging organizers if she could take them to the “Holiday Dignity Store.” They said it was fine, and took the family with her.
“The kids thought they were just going to lunch and when the mom came out with the presents, they just started bawling. It was unbelievable,” Trimmer said.
Recuperating From A Devastating Fire
Mission officials began putting this event together in October. Since then they’ve been receiving donations from individuals and families (including one that bought nearly $1,000 in toys), small and big businesses, and other nonprofit groups.
All of this while the organization is still recovering from a fire that destroyed its shelter, burned vehicles, and damaged its kitchen and offices in North Hollywood.
“It was devastating. We were at a point when we [wondered] if we were still going to be here,” Trimmer said.
But the generosity of the community, elected officials and others has enabled the mission to continue with its programs, even expanding some.
“We’re ending the year in good shape,” Trimmer said. “The shelter is back and running; we’re still replacing vehicles and trying to come to a settlement with insurance.”
The fire affected them in other ways. Business at the thrift shop in North Hollywood, one of the main sources of income, went down after the fire because people thought it had closed. But it and other mission operations are pretty much open, and Trimmer said officials are still accepting donations — especially of household items and clothing.
“The needs go on throughout the year. We have a birthday party here (at the shelter) every month for the kids,” he noted.
The San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission is located at 13442 Saticoy St., in North Hollywood. For more information, call (818) 785-4476 or visit www.sanfernandovalleyrescuemission.org.