VIDEO: Escobar Family & Online Community Help Homeless Mother & Son

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Guam- It’s a story that reinforces hope in humanity. A mother and son left homeless for over a month now will finally have a roof over their heads thanks to the efforts of their neighbors and the kindness of strangers.

Carina Escobar and Carmen have been neighbors for over two years in Harmon. Carmen’s son used to play with Carina’s son until one day they noticed something wrong. Carina learned Carmen and her son were evicted by their landlord and found them by the dumpster of their condo area.

“All they had was a few luggages of clothes they were lugging around,” said Carina. “It was just really devastating for us.”

Carina called the mayor for help and asked Carmen if she had any family. Carmen told her she had relatives in Yigo and Carina helped transport them there. She thought everything was ok, until she saw them on the side of the road a week later by the Prestige Automotive area. She didn’t know how to help them.

“I felt hopeless,” said Carina. “I just felt hopeless at that time. I was really saddened by it. I just really couldn’t do anything anymore.”

But then a few weeks ago, her brother, Will, came across Carmen and her son while going to his dental appointment. He took a photo of them, gave them money and the son started crying. He wanted to reach out further and utilized the power of social media.

Carina remarked, “When I saw the photo, I called my brother and I said, ‘Hey Will, I know this family, you know. I’ve been trying to help them. I’m at a deadlock right now. I don’t know where else to go with this.’ So he says,’Ok, let’s start a fundraiser.’ So he started a fundraiser on facebook.”

Calling it the best use of facebook, the Escobars were able to share the story of Carmen and her son and spread the word about how people can donate online to help them.

“It just went viral after that,” said Carina. “I think about 33 people shared it you know and the money was just pouring in. Within, I think two or three days, about $1,900 was raised for this family.”

The generosity of people gave Carina the strength to press forward. She knew $1,900 would help the family, but not enough to get them off the streets. She contacted GHURA for several days. No one answered. Carmen’s social worker wasn’t in. Carina finally talked to GHURA last week Wednesday asking them for help. She said she was shocked to learn Carmen was wrongfully terminated and was still in the system. She was even more disturbed that GHURA paid the landlord for October and November even though the landlord evicted them and left them on the streets.

“It was a whole misunderstanding,” said Carina. “It was just a big mess. You know, I sent a mass text message out to my family. Go and find Carmen and her son. I need to bring them to GHURA to sort this mess out.”

Scouring the island, Carina finally found Carmen and her son at an east Agana pavilion. They waited hours for Carmen’s son to return from school. The following morning, she took the day off from work and brought them to meet Carmen’s social worker.

“[GHURA] did admit that it was their fault,” said Carina. “They didn’t do a followup to check on them. Knowing that she doesn’t have no transportation. Her son is a special need child. They don’t know how to fight for themselves. They just accepted what they were told. That they were terminated.”

She notes GHURA advised them to look for a two bedroom place. In the meantime, Carina’s mom housed Carmen and her son since last Wednesday. Guided by her heart, Carina went to her old apartment in Tamuning to see if anything was available for her neighbors. They were in luck. The realtor accepted Section 8 and paperwork was done quickly.

“So we went over there and we explained the story to him and he just worked all the paperwork right away, contacted the social worker and we got their place by the next day,” said Carina.

Fighting back tears, Carmen tells PNC what it was like to be homeless since September 30.

“It’s like…it’s horrible,” said Carmen. “You know. That’s like after [the] typhoon and still raining. Like hard rain. We’re going like place to place.”

She continues to describe how they would walk in bad weather conditions to sleep on the bench across from Jamaican Grill in Hagatna, and parts of Dededo and Harmon.

“We just walk,” said Carmen. “Pushing the heavy cart. My son sleeping at the bench. Me, on the chair. Actually I have a medical problem….God is watching over us.”

Despite her setback, Carmen says she continues to smile. She even found it funny how the homeless people she met through riding the public transit discovered she was also in the same situation.

“The homeless. They go like, ‘Carmen, you too?’” joked Carmen.

Carmen was supposed to move into her new place today, but it was postponed until tomorrow [Wednesday] due to minor problems that will be corrected from an inspection of the apartment. While she’s happy she will finally have a roof over her head, she is still concerned about all the others that are left on the streets.

“Even though I smile or I laugh with friends or family, my heart is still a big crack or something what they call it,” said Carmen.

Carmen and Carina say they shed a lot of tears together and thank the community for their generosity and support. Carina also send this final message.

“Just reach out,” said Carina. “That’s all. just give a little time. Be a blessing to someone. That’s it.”

Money donated to Carmen and her son will be used to help them pay for their security deposit, buy food, and other basic necessities. If anyone still wants to donate to this family, log on to http://www.youcaring.com/help-a-neighbor/let-s-help-a-homeless-mother-child-/101815.

 

Read Carina Escobar’s First Hand Observations Below:

Carmen and her son

This family was wrongly evicted from their home on September 30th. They were told by their landlord that their contract from GHURA was terminated and were given until 5pm to move out. The keys were taken away from them, the shutters were locked up and they were left in the parking lot. Later in the evening after work my husband found them sitting near the dumpster on the side of the condo. Not knowing what to do, we decided to dropped them to a relative in Yigo. Unfortunately, things don’t always work out as we like them to be, Carmen and her son were back on the streets again.

Carmen and her son has been on the street for over a month. They were without a home during the harshest weather lugging their belongings in a shopping cart. Through rain and storms, they found shelter wherever they can. They moved from village pavilions to sidewalks, and stayed in parks when they were given a tent as make shift shelter. Even though life had been unkind, Carmen’s son still found ways to attend school whenever he could.

It wasn’t until couple of weeks ago that my brother Will saw them sitting outside a dental clinic and reached out to help them. He gave them some money and decided he needed to do more, so he posted their picture online. The community opened their hearts out to them. Friends and families sent donations from everywhere: not just locally and stateside, help poured in from other countries as well.

Carmen said that she often prayed and asked God to send someone nice to help them and God is faithful to respond. Through everyone’s support and generosity it gave me the strength to press on and find help.

With no one else to turn to, on November 4th, I decided to contact Carmen’s social worker at GHURA. With no luck, I continued to try everyday until on November 6th I was able to get a response. I shared Carmen’s story and I pleaded with them asking how they can help. Carmen’s social worker informed me that there were never terminated from the system and that they are still paying their landlord monthly. In disbelief, I messages my family to go out and find Carmen and her son so i can bring them to GHURA to sort this mess out. We found them sheltering in the east hagatna pavilion. Unfortunately, we had to wait until the morning to bring them in. Worried about not being able to find them the next day, my mom opened up her home and invited them to stay with her.

The next day, I took Carmen to see her social worker, since she had authorized me to be her representative, I was able to speak on her behalf.  The social worker admitted that is was her fault for not following up. Carmen and her son were wrongfully evicted from their home in Harmon. I was told by GHURA that if I had never called them, they would have never known Carmen and her son were out on the street and their landlord would have continued collecting payment until their lease comes up for renewal a year later. I asked if Carmen and her son can return home, But Unfortunately we were told that They were not allowed to return back to the unit and would have to find a 2 bedroom house or apartment. With so much frustration and sadness  and without an apology, we left GHURA disappointed. With Gods good grace, within 30 minutes we were able to find Carmen and her son a 2 bedroom apartment in the heart of Tamuning. We met with the realtor, submitted the documents from GHURA; the very next day the documents and lease agreement were signed and submitted over to GHURA pending power and water hook up for inspection. They continued sheltering at my moms house until inspection was completed. Carmen and her son will be moving into their apartment on Tuesday.

With all of this that has happened to Carmen and her son came with a lot of pain and suffering. It was so hard having to drop them off to find shelter for the night and  go home to sleep in our warm beds. Listening to their stories of how they suffered with cold sleepless night because they were afraid of being robbed or attacked was heart breaking. Not only did Carmen and her son suffer, we suffered along with them. The emotional pain we endured not knowing how to help them tore us apart.

Carmen and her son were not even given a 30 day notice and they were just evicted from their home Immediately. In the United States they have eviction notice laws that gives the tenant 30 to 60 days to vacate their home. There are no enforcement on eviction notice here on Guam. What their landlord did was wrong  to evict them and continue receiving federal money without a tenant. Not until I did a follow up call late Thursday afternoon Is when GHURA contact the landlord regarding this situation

I keep thinking about how could of this happen to them? It’s because of the lack of care, this family was left homeless. It was the lack of follow up by the agency knowing that this family had no means of transportation, this family was left homeless. Not knowing their rights, they just accepted what they were told by their landlord that they were terminated from the system and had to vacate, this family was left homeless.

I couldn’t believe that the social workers only visit the home once a year upon renewal. I think increasing the amount of visit to the home is needed, you would be surprised of what you will find. There are people who really need the assistance and there are people who don’t.

There are so many homeless  and lost people out there. Don’t be afraid to reach out. You never know, you could be a blessing to that person you helped. Giving doesn’t only have to be monetarily; Give your time, give your energy. Talk to them. Find out what is their story? When I see someone who needs help, I always remember this verse;

“When I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.”

Take a step out on faith and service someone. We need to come together as a community and help one another. Love your neighbor. Care for one another. Think of way on how you can help the unloved and the unfortunate. Be a blessing to someone. This is Carmen and her sons story. What are others?

Carmen and her sons situation is unfortunate, but I see it as a blessing. They may see us as a blessing to them, but they have been a blessing to me and my family. Their situation has brought us unity and love for one another and for that we are truly grateful. This is a miracle of Gods love and Devine intervention. I believe God has put them in our life for a reason and the next time we think about complaining about how difficult life is and what we don’t have, we will remember Carmen and her son.

There are so many people who need to be recognized for their love and support for this family; my brother Will who started a fundraiser and all those people who responded to Carmen and her son’s needs through the their generous donations. My mom for opening up her heart and home to shelter them for the time being until they move into their home. My son’s father Ruben for taking the time to pick them up and drop them where ever they needed to find shelter. My bible study group and church for their prayers. My husband and children for the emotional support. My brothers and sisters for support and quick action in finding Carmen and her son. My boss for his assistance and understanding when I had to leave work or take the day off to help this family. Thank you all!