By Marianna Moles
Following in her father’s footsteps, Vinessa was just 19 years old when she first tried meth, leading to a 10-year-long addiction. Fourteen years later, she is four years sober and working full time as a case manager for Goodwill NOW, a connection she made while completing the remainder of her jail sentence in the County’s Office of Reentry’s Early Release Program, which she says is a one-stop shop that helps lay a foundation for people like her who want to turn their life around.
Vinessa said the pivotal moment was when she secured a two-bedroom apartment for her and her kids through the County’s Office of Supportive Housing (OSH) Rapid Rehousing program, a short-term County subsidy that pays a portion of the rent. She said, “All I could think was, ‘It’s too good to be true.’ I had never had a sense of being independent. It started a foundation that greatly helped me. Not just me, but my kids.”
Unfortunately, the landlord raised the rent across the entire property at the same time the subsidy ended. Vinessa could not afford the increase. She and her kids currently live on her mother’s property in Gilroy and she commutes to her job in San Jose. She’s had no luck finding a one-bedroom she can afford.
“She’s clean and sober. She’s progressed through employment, making a salary above the county living wage. She’s a better mom. A better daughter. She’s done everything she’s supposed to do, and she still cannot afford to have the two, three bedroom apartment she needs,” said Mona Guerrero, M.A., Program Manager, OSH.
Even so, having one year in stable housing set her on track for the foreseeable future. “What makes Vinessa an inspiration to many is that her story provides much needed hope for individuals struggling to reenter society,” said Javier Aguirre, Director of Reentry Services.