San Jose

Year-Round Shelter in Sunnyvale Rescues Struggling Couple, Newborn

A South Bay homeless shelter that recently transitioned to year-round is being credited with saving a family with a newborn boy last month.

Jorge and Sonja Ayala's son Roy was born March 2, and the couple already had been struggling to make ends meet. A Sunnyvale shelter, now one of the South Bay's only year-round shelters, came to the rescue, the family said.

The Ayalas' situation shows just how tough it’s getting for families, but thanks to the HomeFirst shelter, the parents and their new baby got help just in time.

"My son is premature, so he needs more attention," Sonja Gonzales said. "But I had no choice; I had to go back to work. Going back full time, the whole day I’m without him, and I miss him so much already."

The couple spent months looking for housing, staying afloat using vouchers. They say they were on waiting lists at shelters from San Jose to Santa Cruz and the Peninsula. But there was no room.

"Really, it breaks my heart," Jorge Ayala said. "Just knowing, I’m his dad, I just want to ... like, I can do better than this."

The lack of space has left many families out in the cold. The Ayalas finally got a break when Santa Clara County made HomeFirst year round.

They admit it’s not ideal for Roy but are grateful to the shelter for food and baby supplies.

Advocates say the couple’s luck underscores the bigger problem.

"Think of all the families that didn’t get in," housing advocate Shaunn Cartwright said. "There’s plenty of families that are still out there. There’s plenty of pregnant women, and they don’t have a place to go."

The Ayalas now have up to a year at the shelter to try to get settled, but it might mean moving out of the state.

"The housing opportunities are so hard here," Sonja said. "It’s overpopulated. It’s a risk too because we don’t know anybody out of state, and it’s scary."

Moving out of the Bay Area is an option many working families are considering. Some say they are hoping local counties and cities can come up with more programs similar to HomeFirst if they can hold out that long.

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