To look at Desiree now, you would never even imagine what she's had to overcome. She now has a great life. Little Matthew — her "gift from God" — is almost 5 years old and thriving.
You'd never know that, not so many years ago, Desiree felt hopeless.
"There were times I was so hungry that I would go to the closest Del Taco and ask people to buy me tacos," she remembers.
It hadn't always been like that. Desiree had big dreams, and a healthy work ethic to go with them. She held down two jobs while going to college. She even had her own place.
But Desiree also had a secret addiction to methamphetamines. It almost cost her everything.
As Desiree's addiction got worse, her life began to fall apart. Before she knew it, she was living in a friend's garage…and then, finally, under a bridge. She lost contact with her family. Every day became a desperate search for more drugs.
"Being out on the streets, I forgot that God was there for me. I forgot my dreams," she says.
Desiree was homeless for almost 3 years. Sometimes she had to steal to survive. That led to trouble with the law. But when Desiree found out she was pregnant, she knew something had to change.
"I told myself I couldn't be the same person anymore," she says. "I had to give this baby a chance."
Life on the streets with a baby on the way was too terrible to contemplate. Desiree sought help for her addiction and managed to get clean, but she still didn't have a stable place to live.
Desperate and 8 months pregnant, she finally found a home at Orange County Rescue Mission.
"I knew Orange County Rescue Mission was a safe place where I could change," she recalls. "I wanted to be able to support myself and become independent again."
"At first, I couldn't do much other than read my Bible study books," Desiree says. But she also remembers that they "refreshed my memory of things that I learned as a kid and it made me feel like I was headed in the right direction."
By the time her son was born a few weeks later, she knew she'd made the right choice.
"Orange County Rescue Mission provided everything we needed," she says. "I didn't have to worry about diapers, wipes, clothes, toys, a crib, or anything else. They made it really easy for me."
Desiree was on her way to being made whole again. But not every mother-to-be on the streets of Orange County is so lucky.
Right now, with Thanksgiving around the corner, there are thousands of men, women, children — and pregnant moms, too — on our streets. Some are caught in the throes of addiction, like Desiree was. Others are trapped in abusive relationships. Still others are alienated from their families, homeless, or unemployed. It's for their sake that we've got to be ready to serve hope this year — at Thanksgiving, and all holiday season long.
We need your help.
You, and others like you, gave Desiree the chance she needed to turn her life around. Five years later, she can look back and say that the past is just a memory. After graduating from the Rescue Mission, she went back to college and completed her bachelor's degree.
Recently, she also earned her teaching credential.
And now she is employed as a substitute teacher, and loving every minute of it. She can't wait for the next step in her journey. But what makes her happiest, she says, is the privilege of being a mom.
"It's challenging," she admits, "but, at the same time, it's so rewarding. My son reminds me every day to be humble, and to be patient. He's my knight in shining armor."
"He's also smart as a whip," she says with a smile, and he recently started kindergarten.
Both Desiree and her son are getting a lot of support from her family. "My parents have always been there for me," she explains. "Even when I was doing wrong, they were still trying to help me. They just didn't know how." Her father and brothers spend a lot of time with her son. They're great role models, and he loves them.
Desiree knows she has a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. And not the least of her blessings are friends like you. "I don't know if they realize how much of a difference they actually make," she said recently of Orange County Rescue Mission's donors. "It changes people's lives." She's grateful for the second chance you gave her — and she's determined to keep making the most of it.
But the best thing about Desiree's story is that it's just one example of many amazing stories that you and others have made possible.
Each $1.48 you give today will provide not just one meal and care for someone else who has been devastated by homelessness, but TWO people.
With every meal you help provide, you will also serve a heaping helping of hope.
That's so important. Meeting physical needs is critical. But at the core of homelessness, there is a brokenness that must also be healed. And that healing can only take place through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
You can make it possible to offer healing in His name — at Christmas, throughout the holiday season and all through the year. With your help today, many more can begin their journey to new life this year.
"My kids are getting the stability they need. We have a place to stay that’s safe.”
“I’m so thankful! I have a place to call home, and a place where my children are happy and feel safe and loved."
“I want to say thank you — God works through this place and the people her to transform lives.”