From Hopeless to Housed: Three Formerly Homeless Share Their Stories of Success

By GABRIELLA BOCK | Reporter 

Bobby, Yaya and Marina were all smiles as they waited for their turn to speak at the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness meeting on Monday, Nov. 13.

At first glance, the three guests of honor appeared amiable and poised as they interacted with convention attendees—seeming not at all like the stereotypical outcast commonly associated with homelessness.

But despite present appearances, all three guests had, at one time or another, been living on the outskirts of society.

Bobby and Yaya, who recently received keys to their new apartments, were both living in our Bluffs when task force outreach workers Maureen Rivas and Glanda Sherman made it their personal mission to get the two formerly homeless individuals into treatment.

It took months for Rivas and Sherman to earn the trust of the transients, but eventually the hard work paid off—even for Bobby, who, after spending 14 long years hidden away from society, has been reintegrated back into the world and is thriving in his Huntington Park home.

Yaya, a spirited young woman who grew up in and out of foster homes, had been living in an encampment high up in the Via Bluffs when a 2.5-acre brush fire ripped through the area.

Then, in April 2016, four months after losing everything she owned, Yaya got the news that would change her life forever: She was pregnant.

Now, two years later and Yaya is back in Hollywood where she once roamed the streets and used drugs with other forgotten foster youth.

But this time, thanks to her own perseverance and the support of PPTFH, Yaya is working hard as an assistant manager of a grocery store and living in an apartment with her healthy 1-year-old daughter Mary Jane.

“People tell me all the time that I am a different person now,” she said. “But the more I look at myself the more I realize that I’m not different—this is who I am. I just went through something terrible, but I’m better now. I’m happy.”

Yaya later explained that the reason she was able to make the transition back into the mainstream was due in large part to the intensive outreach efforts and modeled compassion demonstrated by the task force.

“Maureen was there for me nonstop,” she said. “She came to me engaged, connected and committed—for me, that’s what truly made the difference.”

For Marina, the evening’s final speaker, the path to homelessness came as a series of unfortunate events that eventually left her and her three young children living in their car on Pacific Coast Highway.

A working woman with a background in real estate and design, the mother fell on hard times after her husband abandoned their family, leaving them without a second earner in a city with one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets.

It was there on PCH that LAPD beach patrolman Rusty Redican discovered the family and offered to get them in touch with the outreach team.

Marina and her children were quickly moved into an interim motel before transitioning into a supportive shelter where they are currently awaiting permanent housing.

In the meantime, Marina is back in school pursuing a degree in architecture and is already developing progressive plans for herself and her community.

“You’ll see me again,” Marina closed with a prize-worthy grin. “But it’s not because I’ll be needing resources, it’s because I will be creating them.”