It had been several months of sleeping on the living room floor of a family friend’s home amid the COVID-19 pandemic for Benny Galan, his mother, Lisa Reyes, and his older sister Julie Reyes.
“In February, I had to leave another home because they were drinking and having domestic problems,” said Lisa. “So one day, we just left and had been staying with my girlfriend in Saugus since February, and then the pandemic hit and I lost my job.”
Between those seven months, Lisa jumped from temporary jobs in warehouses, “doing whatever they gave me because I had to make ends meet,” she said.
Matthew and Sandra Beardsley, young parents of two, also “hit rock bottom” in February, after Matthew lost his job and Sandra had to go on disability due to a high-risk pregnancy.
“We were staying at my sister’s house and they don’t have kids — so, it’s not the same,” said Sandra, adding that wasn’t a permanent solution, either. “They were going to move out, so we were literally going to become homeless.”
After several months of uncertainty, the two families sat together at the dinner table of their new home in Castaic to wish Galan a happy 10th birthday.
“Thank you for this great birthday party,” Benny said. “I actually never thought it was gonna be this awesome.”
The two families temporarily share a home in Castaic, they said, thanks to the nonprofit organization Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley and generous members of the community.
Family Promise, which connects homeless individuals with shelter through partnerships with local churches and synagogues, recently acquired the two-story house through a $750,000 donation from a local, anonymous couple who supports the nonprofit, according to Executive Director Roché Vermaak. The house will be used as a transitional home to shelter the people they serve.
“In March, all 13 local congregations closed due to COVID while we were serving 62 families remotely, most who are single mothers,” he said. “So, I had to shelter them in motels, but you cannot just put an unlimited number of people in motels. So, this opportunity allows us to bring back the program.”
Throughout the pandemic, Family Promise sheltered 10 families and expectant mothers in motels and referred over 20 others to agencies for assistance, while providing case management for the 62 families to assist them in finding employment, childcare, housing and social benefits, according to officials.
With the transitional house, the nonprofit is now able to streamline its services and help more families. Church members and other residents helped furnish and reconfigure the home to provide ample space and privacy amid the pandemic, according to Rachel Rieckhoff, Family Promise program manager.
The home includes five bedrooms, a converted master bedroom that serves as a play and learning center for the children, both private and shared bathrooms, two living rooms and a shared kitchen. Groceries, toiletries, all of the furniture and even a vehicle for Julie have been donated by members of the community, according to Vermaak.
Since their stay in September, the families have received case management and found employment. The program runs up to 90 days, with monthly evaluations, said Vermaak.
“We evaluate after 30 days, then 60 days, and the hope is that within 90 days, they will be self-sufficient to have a job,” he added.
The goal for Family Promise’s transitional house is to find additional support for the families by providing additional groceries, supplies and child care.
As for Lisa and her kids, the best part of the home is being able to sleep on their beds. For the Beardsleys, “(The best part is) being able to cook and sit down and have our home-cooked meal,” said Sandra.
To learn more about the home and how to help, visit familypromisescv.org.