Years after they were living in a homeless encampment in Agua Dulce, Joseph Cervantes made his way to Help the Children in Santa Clarita to pick up groceries for him and his wife on Saturday.
“We’re surviving, and that’s the most important thing now,” he said.
Though the name would suggest it’s intended for children only, a steady stream of seniors regularly stop by Help the Children to pick up groceries, clothes and medical supplies.
“We see the homeless seniors, we see seniors that are just on such a fixed income that they can’t afford food,” said David Stratton, executive director of Help the Children in Santa Clarita. “They pay their rent or they have their housing and just don’t have enough to have what they need.”
Cervantes and his wife Martha became homeless after she had a stroke and was then diagnosed with cancer two years later. Cervantes’ daughter-in-law told them about Help the Children, which he passed along to friends of his going through similar situations.
Help the Children was founded over 20 years ago in Bell by Roxana Presgrove and her husband Roger. Following his death, she continued to expand and lead, moving the organization to Santa Clarita.
“We greet them at the front and then we’ll have one of our shoppers along with them, so they’ll have a personal shopper and the items they pick, they’ll put them in a box,” Presgrove said. “They’ll go with them, chat and say ‘Hi’ along the way and then once they’re finished, they’ll have a few boxes worth of food.”
Upon arrival, individuals or families can browse through the pantry with different items to choose from. Once they’re ready to leave, volunteers help bag their items, check out items and will help carry bags to their car, or even help deliver for those with disabilities, according to Stratton. Items, including canned goods and produce, donated by residents and groups who want to help.
Elizabeth Kern and her neighbor Linda Gaines both stopped at Help the Children after they said their rent prices went up. They live off their social security income and both said they might have to move and live with family outside of California.
“Everyday is a survival-mode for me,” Kern said.
Kern was notified by Nikki Cervantes (no relation to Joseph), facilitator of the second career center at the SCV Senior Center, about Help the Children. She took Gaines with her, and they ate homemade soup served to guests. Gaines said it was a blessing.
Those who wish to donate money or items to Help the Children can go to their website at helpthechildren.org.