MaryMary and her daughter, Diane, are survivors. Together and apart, the two have endured years of hard times. With the help of Project Homeless Connect, they’re starting their lives over.
Mother and daughter recently visited PHC with a third generation of their family—Diane’s baby, Alika. They came for food, eyeglasses, and to order birth certificates, which are crucial for securing identification needed for Social Security cards and employment, among other things.
“If you need something here,” Mary says of PHC, “you can get it.”
When Mary thought of where she wanted to start over, she immediately thought of San Francisco, where she had spent the first 11 years of her life. Since leaving the city, she has lived all over: in San Jose, San Mateo, Sacramento, and even, for a time, in Hawaii, where Diane was born 27 years ago. Just last month, Mary moved into a subsidized apartment in Oakland with assistance from the Hamilton Family Center. (There were no apartments available in San Francisco.) Diane, who is fleeing a difficult relationship, is currently staying in a transitional shelter. Soon, she and Alika will be Mary’s roommates.
Mary and Diane have not always been in each other’s lives. When her daughter was young, Mary was in prison. “I have made really bad choices. . . . I picked the wrong friends and I was stuck in the system. I did ten out of twelve years. And you can’t take that away, you can’t fix that. And so I’m finally learning how to say, ‘Okay, look, this is what I’ve done, this is not who I am and I’m not going to live in that any more.’ I’m off parole now for the first time since ’94. I’m off parole.”
Diane, too, has a criminal record. While at PHC, she connected with Clean Slate, a program through the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office that helps people with felony and misdemeanor convictions “erase” their records, something Diane will need in order to pursue her dream of one day becoming a nurse.
Diane also dreams of the day she will be reunited with her three older children. Eleven, four, and two-years-old, respectively, the children live with Diane’s father in Modesto. A car accident involving drunk driving resulted in the children being placed in his custody. Diane hasn’t been able to get there to see them in months.
“My mom’s been really supportive of me trying to get them back and just – she’s as focused as I am trying to get them back.”
There have been scary moments. In October, Diane had to have a fingertip amputated after being poked by a dirty needle when she was cleaning out someone’s bag. Shortly after, she got pricked with a needle again. Alika “was in my stomach the whole time and she’s perfectly healthy and fine.”
“The only problem she has,” Mary says of her granddaughter, “is she’s too cute for her own good.” Through it all, mother and daughter have remained friends.
“We’re working together,” Mary says, to overcome obstacles. “I don’t ever want her to feel alone again. I don’t want her to think for one minute that she’s not 100% loved and respected and if that’s what I can offer her, if I can show her to respect and love herself, if nothing else.
“She’s pretty spectacular. And she’s the strongest one of all three of us.”
Diane in return says that since her mother has been back in her life, “It’s calmer, easier. I now have a friend that can support me unconditionally, and that’s been real nice.”
For the time being, the two will continue to make use of the resources available to them through PHC.
“The last time I was here I was alone,” Mary says. “This time I’m here with my daughter and my granddaughter. Unfortunately, we’re here, but it’s great.”