Lucy Gutierrez was working at a prison and saw no future in it. She could hardly pay the groceries and wanted out.
Gutierrez decided that she needed to get her LVN so that she could work with the elderly and she began taking the more-than-an-hour long trek to South Plains College in Levelland, Texas from her home in Lamesa, Texas, but the gas was more than she could afford.
“I started staying in my car and leaving my daughter with my sister during the week,” Gutierrez said. “I kept a suitcase with clothes in the car. It was bad, I mean, you could tell I lived out of my car. I would fall asleep in my car sweating. I had to roll down the windows to keep the gnats out.”
She added that on weekends, she’d run to her sister’s to see her daughter Jobenet, wash her clothes and be a mom while she could do it.
During the week, Gutierrez said she worked hard in school, sitting in the front in her classroom, visiting the library, eating when she could and doing her best to keep sort-of clean.
“I remember that they had a meal program where you could get a meal for $.50,” she said. “My friends used to invite me to go but I couldn’t because I really didn’t have $.50. They thought I was being a snob.”
Eventually, though, Gutierrez’s situation got too complicated for success and she failed one of her classes, she said.
When she learned about Family Place, she applied immediately.
“I told Anna (Family Place coordinator), I want you to let me in the program because I need help and I want to get out of this mess. I have lived almost six years without heat or air conditioner. Give me a home because I need one. Because my house is not livable and this is my way out.”
Gutierrez said she was overjoyed to be accepted into the program, but imagined a living arrangement with rats, no hot water or electricity and empty rooms.
“I figured, what could be worse than sleeping in my car,” she said. “At least I’d have my daughter with me. But it was beautiful. When I came, I didn’t realize that they would furnish it for me. I came in and there was no furniture. It was empty. But it didn’t matter. It was beautiful. I said, “Look Jobi, we have hot water! Look, the stove actually works; all of the burners!
“I was thinking we would just get a mattress and sleep on the floor, but then they put all the furniture in here and they said that if I graduate I’ll be able to take it with me.”
Gutierrez’s apartment is fully decorated, with pictures, bedding and a curtain set that she made herself.
“Here I have a beautiful home,” she said. “I don’t want my daughter growing up feeling like she’s never lived in a home.”
She added that she and her daughter never lived in a nice place like that before—a place that was all their own, where everything worked and where they felt safe.
Gutierrez, who was the first in her family to finish high school, said that she feels that Family Place is also improving life for her daughter and opening doors for her future.
“Her daughter Jobenet has received many opportunities since she’s been here,” said Anna Rodriguez, program coordinator for Family Place in Midland. “And everything she does she excels at. She’s had opportunities in acting and swimming and she’s very good at both.”
Gutierrez’s eyes fill with tears when she speaks of Jobenet.
“I am very proud of my daughter and I know she will do well. She told me, ‘I am always going to stick with you mom, through thick and thin.’ She is what keeps me going.”
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