Fragility of the American Dream

Fragility of the American Dream
Cheri Gonzales told her story at the Abolishing Homelessness forum in Merced.

The following testimony was given by a new member of the California Central Valley Journey for Justice at the April 9, 2011, University of California, Merced, forum titled Abolishing Homelessness. It is included here because it shows how fragile “the American Dream” really is. Cheri’s experiences with being foreclosed upon and evicted as a renter are shared by many in the San Joaquin Valley. The California Central Valley Journey for Justice is following closely and participating with efforts by the Tenants Together group to get the Merced City Council to pass a resolution opposed to evictions of renters on the basis of foreclosure.

Cheri was accepted and aided by the Haven of Hope, which is the women’s branch of the Merced Rescue Mission, as have several others in her situation. Mention of this service does not constitute an endorsement of it. Though it certainly has helped Cheri and many others, that particular approach has not worked for everyone.

Lastly, Cheri’s comments should be taken in the context of the high local unemployment rates, the massive budget cuts that will certainly affect services available to the homeless and other poor, and the continued foreclosure crisis in the Valley.

—Sal Sandoval, Merced page editor for the Community Alliance

Cheri’s Testimony at UC Merced

In 2002, I was living the American Dream. We had bought a brand new 3-bedroom and 2-bathroom house on two acres. By spring of 2004, I was a meth addict living in my car with my dog. I continued to make bad decisions. I let a man I just met take my car with my dog and everything I owned. I never saw him, my dog or belongings again. Now I was homeless living on the streets.

There was a day shelter on R Street where I could go to rest, do my laundry, get clothes and have my mail sent. I found out that I could sleep at the National Guard armory. They provided a cot, blankets, dinner, toiletries and a shower. It was a warm safe place. I met a lot of nice people who protected me and taught me to live on the streets safely. After a couple of months, the armory was going to close for the season. My friends and I didn’t know what we were going to do. My boyfriend convinced his parents to let me stay with him at their house.

A few months later, we moved into a nice apartment where we lived for two and one-half years. We continued to use meth and my boyfriend was also an alcoholic. Because of these things, there was domestic violence. One day, I ended up in the hospital and he did five months in jail.

I continued using and being used by other people. I ended up homeless again, staying with other people. They used me to support their habits, so I chose to live in my truck and I was sinking deep into debt.

My boyfriend was released from jail, and I went running back to him. We were clean from meth, but his alcoholism continued, and so did the verbal abuse and physical aggressiveness. We stayed in a motel for as long as we could, then went to stay at his parents’ while they were gone.

Finally, I had enough. I called the pastor of Planada Community Church; his wife took me to their home. I told them what had been going on. Pastor told me that he knew the director of the Merced Rescue Mission and that they had a women’s division called Haven of Hope. He asked me if I was willing to go, and I said yes.

I had my interview and was accepted. Within two days, I entered Haven of Hope. That was in May of 2007. I rededicated my life to Jesus, got clean and learned how to care for myself. I graduated December 16, 2007. I have been a clean, sober woman of God ever since.

In the spring of 2010, I was informed that the apartment complex that I was living in was in foreclosure. I did not have the money to get into a new apartment and feared that I would be homeless again. My best friend worked at Love in the Name of Christ homeless prevention unit. I was approved; they pledged to help me with one and one-half month’s rent so that I could pay the deposit at the Wellness Center, a division of Mental Health. They have a housing specialist. She found a nice apartment for me. Without these two amazing organizations, I would have been homeless again. I give all the glory to God who provides for me and strengthens me.


  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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