When life got tough for Marlene and her family, Father Joe’s Villages was there to offer support and resources. Father Joe’s Villages is one of San Diego’s most comprehensive shelters for women, children and families experiencing homelessness, providing housing, food and a range of other critical resources.

Marlene stands in the Health Center, where she now works. | shelters for women, children & families

Marlene now works as a Patient Services Representative at the Village Health Center and is working on her Master’s degree in Public Health.

Falling On Hard Times

In 2010, Marlene was living with her husband, a disabled Veteran, her two sons and her daughter in a mobile home. Marlene, a recovering addict, had been sober for six years. She was working full time and enjoying life as a mother and wife.

However, Marlene’s life was suddenly and drastically turned upside down. One night while Marlene was at work, her daughter’s biological father secretly picked her up from the baby-sitter’s house and fled to Mexico.

Marlene traveled to Tijuana on her own, desperately searching for her daughter, but to no avail. “I just felt helpless. I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I am never going to see my baby again.’”

Marlene began to spiral downwards into depression. She relapsed and began using drugs to cope with her emotional turmoil. She eventually lost her job and they were evicted from their mobile home.

Although they found a place for their sons to live, Marlene and her husband were forced to move from hotel to hotel.

“It’s a struggle because so many doors close to you when you are homeless. You feel very hopeless and helpless. The lifestyle… takes a toll on people’s body, spirit and mind. There is no tranquility out there.”

Finally, after an entire year of homelessness and drug abuse, Marlene decided she was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Through strong will and determination, Marlene became sober again.

Searching for Shelters for Women, Children & Families

As a Veteran, her husband was able to go to the Veteran’s Administration for help. Through the VA, the family connected with a homeless advocate who recommended Father Joe’s Villages.

After Marlene, her husband and their two sons moved into Father Joe’s Villages, she was able to dedicate her time to building a brighter future for her and her family.

“The situation will either make or break you. Father Joe’s Villages made us stronger. Sometimes we just need something to bring us back.”

Having a stable place to live, Marlene was able to focus on getting her daughter back. After a long court battle, she was finally able to regain custody.

Soon, Marlene found a job as an overnight stocker at Walmart. Even though she would be exhausted, Marlene would clock out from her job and go straight to her classes.

She took Addiction Treatment & Education classes to help her on her path to sobriety, financial responsibility classes to help her budget, and even parenting classes to help her be the best mother she could be.

Both of Marlene’s sons were enrolled in the Therapeutic Childcare Program where they received tutoring, literacy support and joined after-school programs.

Rebuilding Self-Sufficiency

With the help of Father Joe’s Villages’ dedicated staff, Marlene saved enough money for the family to move into a new apartment. Marlene was even motivated to go back to school and receive her Bachelor’s degree.

Even then, Marlene’s journey with Father Joe’s Villages was far from over. Feeling blessed by all the support she received, she decided she wanted to give back. In 2017, she searched for work at Father Joe’s Villages and found a job as a Patient Services Representative at the Village Health Center.

“I know what it is to be out there… I was down and out; I was hopeless and helpless, too. It is such a struggle.”

Marlene now owns a beautiful home with her husband, her daughter and youngest son. Her oldest son is now in his third year at San Diego State.

However, Marlene will never forget the impact Father Joe’s Villages made on her life. She encourages the community to get involved so more people can receive the help and resources they need.

“Our clients need to be loved, and donors are helping them by feeding them, by helping them utilize the showers at the Day Center, by giving them bathrooms to use. Keeping this organization open is crucial. It works. Our programs really, really work. These people need us.”

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