VALLEY — Imagine you are in your home, the one place where people should be able to feel safe.
As you go about your day, thinking about what to make for dinner, you stop suddenly, panicked because you forgot to put the roast in the oven. Your partner will be home in one hour, expecting dinner to be ready. If that were most of us, you might automatically think of something else to cook, something that doesn’t require thawing. But if you are like too many whose partners have expectations that you are not allowed to change, you panic. The only good thing about this is that you know what the outcome will be. You know with certainty that your partner will yell at you, tell you how worthless you are, maybe hit you as they walk past you on their way to throw the dinner you prepared in the trashcan.
You sit down and look around you while you think about leaving. This house doesn’t feel like a home; it feels like a prison cell. Everything is neat and organized. It looks like a show home. You imagine yourself spreading magazines all over the coffee table and children’s socks and toys scattered around, signs of a carefree and comfortable space. Where would you go? Your best friend would greet you with open arms, but you’re not sure you have enough money to get there. You look in your secret hiding place - the small box tucked amongst the cans of food in the cupboard - and find that your partner has already discovered it and has taken the money you were saving for your escape. You can’t stay here any longer, but you have no money and nowhere else to go. The prospect that you could be a homeless person dawns on you, and you begin to cry. All of your life, you have seen people standing on the side of the road, holding signs that explain that they are homeless and they need help. They never intended to be homeless. They never meant to feel needy.
You remember the time when you and your partner drove past the homeless shelter, La Puente, and at that point, you thought to yourself you were glad there was some place for people to go. When you call to ask about staying there, a person with a kind voice asks you what’s going on. You take a deep breath and bravely tell this stranger that your partner is violent and you need to leave. The person tells you about Tu Casa, a program that helps victims of domestic violence. “But if that doesn’t work out, you are always welcome here,” the kind voice says. “You know, La Puente and Tu Casa have a strong working relationship, and we support each other in a lot of ways.”
Things will turn out for the best. That is your hope.
Please join La Puente in front of the Shelter, 912 State Avenue, as they partake in a night of support for the homeless with their candlelight vigil. The vigil will begin at 6:30 tonight and conclude at Sacred Heart Church. All community members are welcome and encouraged to attend!
Patti Lara is executive director of Tu Casa, Inc.