Santa Clara County

Homeless to Housed: Silicon Valley Single Mom and Twin Girls Share Struggle Finding Housing

LaTori and LaToya Gonzalez's room is a pink paradise complete with Hello Kitty bedding, Barbie dolls and "Frozen" posters. It's a very different space than the back seat of a van they called home for two and a half years.

The 9-year-old girls, their mother and two older brothers slept in a van while searching for housing in Silicon Valley. The family had a tough time finding an affordable place to stay after leaving home as a result of domestic violence.

"I had their father and was going through a struggle with him," said Darlisha Matthews, the girls' mom. "I left him and after leaving him my grandmother passed away and after that I just lost everything."

Darlisha parked at gas stations, churches and hospital parking lots because she considered them the safest places at night for her and her children. Finding a place to cook was a challenge. So was securing a spot to do homework.

"We'll go to the playground and then we'll stop and then we'll do our homework inside the car and then after when we're done we'll go to play at the playground," said LaTori.

Darlisha has a job at a school district. Still, finding an affordable place for her family felt impossible.

"No mother or father with kids deserves to be homeless and struggling so hard out here on the street," said Matthews. "My kids asked me, 'Are we always going to be homeless like this?'"

Thankfully in Spring 2016 the family moved into a transitional housing apartment operated by Home First, the largest homelessness services provider in Santa Clara County.

"At any given time we've got 6,556 people who are on the streets homeless in Santa Clara County. A large portion of those is families, many of them sleeping in garages or cars," said Andrea Urton, CEO of Home First.

Urton says a growing number of homeless families in Silicon Valley are led by women.

"Thirty three percent of the clients we serve at the largest shelter in Santa Clara County are women. And there has been a 14 percent decrease in homelessness countywide but an increase in female homelessness," Urton said.

Darlisha and her family now have a four-bedroom apartment and pay just over $900 a month for rent. The temporary housing gives her two years to save money while searching for a permanent place. She has another job now as well.

"This gives me enough time to get myself together," said Darlisha. "From losing everything now I'm just getting back on my feet."

Her girls are happy their mom found them a new place to call home.

"I'm thankful that she gave us this place," said LaTori, as tears began to fall. "It's a lot of fun to be here."

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