A Glimpse into Homelessness

From Homeless to Housed: The Journey of a Mother and her Three Children

By TRILBY BERESFORD | Reporter

Lively conversation poured out from Marina’s apartment into the stairwell, and for good reason. St. Joseph Center had secured a housing voucher for herself and her three preteen children, Makiyah, Lawrence and Legend.

Monday, July 23, was move-in day. Excitement overload.

Meeting this family for the first time, you wouldn’t assume they had ever lived on the streets. Makiyah, the more outgoing of the three kids, referred to herself as “Kit-Kat” and talked the Palisadian-Post’s ear off about her love of “action books, YouTube, comics and Minecraft.”

Her thoughts drifted seamlessly from indulging in her favorite pastimes, to the year they spent in Westwood Transitional Living Village; to the time they lived out of a car in Pacific Palisades.

That’s actually how the family was discovered by Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness: An employee at Vons supermarket noticed them washing in the bathroom and alerted PPTFH representatives.

They were categorized as “chronically homeless” and in urgent need of housing. St. Joseph Center collaborated with outreach workers Maureen Rivas and Glanda Sherman to make it happen.

“We’ve moved about six times,” Makiyah recalled, maintaining her bubbliness. She expressed interest in “maybe” becoming a news reporter one day.

Among the many wonderful aspects of move-in day is that the apartment is being furnished free of charge by Heide Ziecker from Meridith Baer Home.

In between artwork being hung up and furniture installation, the Post managed to speak with Marina about why she and her children became homeless.

She described the familiar scenario of marriage dissolution, followed by her extended family members moving away and being unable to help. “One time when we were living with my aunt and uncle, they gave us four months,” Marina said. She described her family situation as “tragic.”

“The process of going from homeless to housed is not easy,” Marina continued. “I don’t think it’s even set up for people to be successful. It’s stressful every step of the way.”

Referencing the erratic lifestyle of homeless individuals, Rivas added, “Even if people don’t begin life on the streets with mental health issues, they often emerge with them.”

Marina credited God for placing good people—those who expressed genuine concern—in her path. When she first spoke to the owner of this apartment building to see if it would be a suitable fit, the owner’s main concern was whether or not the space felt like “home.” “I have so much to be grateful for,” Marina concluded.

Marina explains her design aesthetic.

Then she whipped out her portfolio and showed some of her design work. Marina is studying architectural technology at Los Angeles Trade Tech College.

Covering every page were samples of her progressive apartment structures that emphasize, in her words, “community, unity and family.” Speaking about her “gift” of design, Marina said, “If you find your passion in life, that’s the most important thing.”

Another impressive quality about Marina that must be mentioned is her commitment to providing a satisfying and productive education for her children. She plans to continue a “field-trip based” homeschool program, where they get to actually see what they are learning about as much as possible. She uses materials from Lakeshore Learning to supplement the curriculum.

Marina.

“I also want them to explore their natural talents,” Marina said. “The goal is not just education, but to prepare them well for adulthood.”

As the boys settled into playing a high-velocity “Mortal Kombat” video game, the Post slipped away to allow this family to enjoy their new home.

This is the second piece in a series the Post will run over the next few months sharing the stories of people experiencing homelessness in and around Pacific Palisades.