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Buried by barriers: Affordable housing helps Mesa mom restart life

(KTAR News Photo/Taylor Kinnerup)

PHOENIX — Danielle’s journey to and from homelessness was paved with hardships and blessings.

She spent seven years of her life as a dedicated wife and mother until her husband became addicted to prescription drugs and they separated.

While trying to cope with the separation, she also fell into a life of drugs.

“I spent about three years on the street smoking meth,” Danielle recalled. “Pretty much, I was a needle junkie.”

Eventually, she found herself in a jail cell, going through withdrawal symptoms at her rock bottom. In that moment, she said God saved her.

“It was like I got punched in the stomach, but I could finally breathe again,” she said through tears. “I knew that it was coming, I knew that God was doing something. At that point, I knew God was restoring me.”

When she was released from jail, she said she got on the light rail and rode it straight to her parents’ home. Her parents were taking care of her children at the time.

“Graciously, God would just wake me up every morning and I would put one foot in front of the other,” Danielle said. “I was completely motivated by Him.”

That’s when Danielle called Mesa nonprofit Save the Family in order to find a home of her own.

It started with the Maricopa Association of Governments Family Housing Hub Families Seeking Homeless Services.

The Family Housing Hub is the centralized intake center for all those seeking homeless services in the county.

“I got all the documentation,” she said. “I did everything I could. I got a social security card, and ID, whatever line I needed to be in, I did whatever I needed to do.”

About two months after waiting in lines, Danielle was accepted into Save the Family’s Rapid Re-Housing program.

The Rapid Re-Housing program helped to not only find Danielle a place to live within her budget but would pay her initial deposit, along with her first and last month’s rent. The program would also pay a decreasing portion of her rent for the length of her lease until she gradually worked to pay her full rent on her own.

“That helped me a lot” she beamed. “At that time, I just didn’t have the confidence to go back to the things I used to know how to do [before drugs].”

From there, Danielle got a job at McDonald’s, where things continued to look up.

“I had a manager who supported me, and a customer blessed me with a car,” she said.

But that’s not the only customer who changed Danielle’s life. Another customer offered her a job.

“She came through the drive-thru one morning and said ‘hey, if you want a job shoot me your email,'” she remembered. “From there, I went from eight dollars an hour to 15 dollars an hour.”

While this huge boost in income meant a sigh of relief for Danielle, it still wasn’t enough to keep her from treading water.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, monthly rent for what they call fair housing in Maricopa County would cost $847 a month for a studio apartment. That’s up by more than $100 from the previous fiscal year.

On average, a person would need to make $17.65 an hour at a full time job to afford a studio apartment in Maricopa County.

This has become a cause for concern among Mesa city officials. Mesa Mayor John Giles told KTAR News 92.3 FM this is something the city council is working on.

“We’re updating our housing master plan,” he explained. “Over the last few years as the light rail corridor has developed, there have been several large, affordable housing projects that have been developed as a part of that.”

But Giles said that’s not enough.

“We need to develop more affordable housing projects and we need them to not just be located in the light rail corridor but around the city,” he said.

Giles also highlighted organizations working to make lines like the ones Danielle stood in shorter — specifically free ID vouchers like the Homeless I.D. Project.

Ultimately, Danielle has made strides to financial stability.

On the day of her interview with KTAR News, she received a promotion at her job.

“I went from [McDonald’s] at eight dollars an hour to $18 an hour,” she smiled through tears.

Danielle also continues to credit and thank God for her success and now prays for it for others.

“If you sow good seed it is going to come out and just before you give up, that’s when the best things happen to you,” she said.

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