Resiliency, determination and strong advocacy for her children are what come to mind describing Maria, a mother of two teens, a preschooler, and a baby due with her husband of two years. She has fought to keep her family together, to get an education and to ultimately own a home. She acknowledges Lower Cape Outreach Council’s (LCOC) help played a big part in her dream and her success thus far.
In 2015 she lost her Dennis housing and had to leave the Cape to stay with her mother. She wanted to keep her kids in the Dennis school system, so her mother helped her buy a car and Maria found a shelter in Pocasset, a shorter way to drive her son and daughter to school.
Two years ago, Maria met and married a man from the Dominican Republic, a fellow hard worker, who is a landscaper and car mechanic and had the same vision that she did. “For years, though,” she says, “I struggled a lot, trying to keep my feet on the ground, and was homeless at one point.” Uncertain transportation to Cape Cod Community College, where she was working towards a certificate, made classes difficult. She says she was lucky that her mother could take care of her youngest while the older kids were in school. The baby had been in day care but began to have febrile seizures so had to be withdrawn from the day care center.
In 2016, through the college, she got an internship at a local call center that resulted in a full-time position when she finished her Department of Transitional Assistance certificate. She has worked there for over three years but for the first year she was commuting from Fall River and bringing her kids to school first.
Her boss has been amazing. She says when her father died shortly after she started work, they were so kind about giving her a little time off. They have put together a plan for some family leave time when the baby is born including being waitlisted at the YMCA-Cape Cod for childcare. “When I am there, I am so grateful for this job and these employers. I never am idle but try to find additional things to take care of if the calls are slower as they have been during the pandemic.”
In 2017, Maria heard about housing available in Chatham and contacted Chatham Housing Authority, continually following up—she says “bugging them”—until she got an apartment. The LCOC was instrumental in helping her get on her fee. LCOC helped with rent and car insurance, referred her to fuel assistance, even helped with Thanksgiving one year and clothes and diapers for her youngest. Maria was careful to keep her receipts and held herself accountable to take no more help than she needed.
Lower Cape Outreach Council has helped her not only with material and monetary help, but with motivation to work harder and providing a lot of hope and relief that she was not alone. “Everything they did was to keep me going, never making me feel ashamed or being judged. They have heart,” she says thankfully. “Their help meant the world to me, a weight lifted off my shoulders so that I could stay strong for my kids. It gave me breathing room, and hope, and help that I never knew existed or expected. Gennie once noticed that my son didn’t have a well-fitting winter coat and she got one for him without being asked. I cried so hard. They are the most amazing agency and work with others like St. Vincent DePaul to help those in need. We are indebted for their generous and non-judgmental help.”
Maria and her family are now out of public housing, and she is taking courses on finance and budgets at Housing Assistance Corp (HAC) for first time home buyers. She wants to make no mistakes when the opportunity arises for she and her husband to purchase their first home.
“Next year is the year for our family,” Maria affirms. “We have all that we need right now but our hope is to buy a home. If we are ever able to pay it forward, we will donate money to the LCOC so that they can help others like us when they need it. I want to be there for them as they were for us.”