May 2018

Inside, cockroaches were scurrying across the floors, and outside, the neighbor’s garbage was piling up. And not much was going to be done about it… This was the reality for Valerie and Noe Perez, of Price Hill. When Valerie asked the landlord to do something about the cockroaches, he told her to solve it herself. “Those conditions that we were living in aren’t something that you or anybody else would want their family to live in,” Valerie said. She knew that her family deserved to live in a healthy environment, no matter the cost.

Valerie and her family had been part of Santa Maria Community Services’ kindergarten-readiness SPARK program (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids).  Valerie obtained her high school diploma through Dohn 22+, a partnership between Santa Maria and Dohn Community High School’s 22+ Adult Diploma Program.  Valerie was even hired to work a few hours a week at Santa Maria along with other part-time jobs.

Today, thanks to a referral from a friend and the support of several organizations including Santa Maria, Valerie and her family have purchased their own home free and clear through the

Price Hill Homestead Program. When they saw that homey cottage perched on top of a hill, they knew it was right for themThey are now first-time home owners, but they are not stopping there. They hope to arrive at a place where they no longer need government assistance and still have money to pay all their bills, put food on the table, and have the extra money to put toward their health insurance. They want others to see that homeownership is possible for people who work hard but do not make a lot of money.

The Perez family journey hasn’t been an easy one, especially because Valerie has a criminal record, which is something she has not been afraid to reveal. Valerie says Santa Maria was one of the first places to look past that and see the value in her experiences and the kind of perspective she can bring to the table. “For the first time, I was seen as a human. I was seen as a person who, if given the chance, can take off and do amazing things, and they really gave me that opportunity. I hope by sharing with other people what we went through, what we were able to accomplish, other people are encouraged to go to Santa Maria.”

Valerie wants those who support Santa Maria to know that they are truly gifting their money to a place that is making a difference.  At the same time, Valerie says that those receiving help need to do their part and pull their own weight too for the programs to work for them. She hopes that she can teach other people who were in her situation how to help themselves and overcome barriers. This can create a chain reaction of people in the community helping one another. Valerie is so passionate about this that there have been times when she has watched people’s kids free of charge so that they could go to orientation for a Santa Maria program. “I just see the need is strong and especially now that people see that we made it.  I have so many people asking me how they can do it, too.”