This is a story about a young family who found themselves homeless in Redding.
They moved here from the Bay Area to start a new life with their young family. The husband always worked, and the wife took care of their two boys; a newborn and a 2-year-old.
They were all set up to move into a little home in town; not much, but a roof over their heads. A week before they moved, they were informed that the house may not be available. And even if it was, they might be delayed in moving in. They decided to come up anyway. The husband had already given notice at his current job, and he had a full-time job waiting for him in Redding.
On a Sunday, they drove up with all of their belongings, put them in a storage unit, and with the last of their money checked into a hotel. Monday morning the husband went off to work at his new job, thinking everything will work out. He had no idea what was in store for him.
Half way through the young man's first day of work a phone call came in to him through his boss who said there was a frantic woman on the phone whose husband had just started work there that day. She needed to get an emergency message to her husband that there was something wrong with their newborn son and they were at the hospital.
Being their first day in Redding, and not knowing anyone, the husband did not even know where the hospital was. The boss had an employee take him to the local hospital and drop him off, not knowing if he would return. Over the next couple of days the baby was fighting for his life. He had been born with defective kidneys and was too weak for the life-saving operation.
The couple called their parents, who helped as best as they could, and paid for another week in the hotel. The husband returned to his employer to ask if he still had a job. The boss let him come back on Friday, as long as he promised to be there every day possible.
Over the next weeks the husband and wife took turns being at the hospital with their newborn and staying at the hotel with their 2-year-old.
Fortunately, the baby's condition improved enough that he was allowed to come home from the hospital temporarily.
Unfortunately, the couple's home was falling through, and was no longer available.
They were out of time, out of money and were now homeless. The only place left to live was in their car with all their possessions, a 2-year-old and a very sick infant in need of a kidney.
One day at at work, one of the husband's coworkers asked if the young family would like to come to his and his wife's home for dinner, just a short ways out of town.
They accepted the invitation. This was the first sit-down dinner they had had in more than two weeks.
After dinner the coworker and his wife told the couple they wanted to show them something. They couple followed the coworker and his wife upstairs to a little loft that had one bed, a closet and a chair. They explained that they had built it for guests to stay in, that it was never intended as long-term lodging. But they said that given the dire circumstances, the couple could stay with them for awhile. They would let them stay there free of charge, and only asked that they'd be respectful.
The coworker and his wife took a chance on the young couple to see if they could make it. The wife would stay with the young mom during the day, while the coworker would give the young man a ride to work every morning.
Over the following months, the husband kept his job. He rode to and from work every day with the coworker, whose wife would drive the young mother back and forth to doctors' appointments, even driving as far as U.C. Davis Medical Center.
Eventually, the couple with their two children were able to get into their own house. All along, they had saved some money with the intention to repay the couple. When they handed the woman their check, she asked if they felt better about it. The young couple said, yes, they did feel much better about it.
With that, the woman took the couple's check and tossed it into the fireplace. She told them to use their money to buy some food and get on their feet. She told them that someday they'd be able to pay it forward and help someone else.
Eighteen years have gone by. The couple has a nice home. They own a small company and employee four people. Their son finally received his surgery and is living a full, healthy life. Just as the woman suggested, the young couple has several people get on their feet over the years, people who, like the couple years earlier, were very grateful for the chances they were given.
The reason I know this story so well is because it is mine to tell. People are shocked to learn that my wife, my sons and I were once homeless.
There is a lot of help in this community for the truly homeless. I think that the difference between me and many people who are still on the street is that I was willing to work every day. I was respectful to the family who took us in. I didn't use drugs or abuse alcohol. I spent every penny I made on my family. I chose to keep trying and never give up.
There is always hope. You just have to work for it.