My name is Gao, I’m 30 years old. I have two little girls, ages 6 and soon to be 5. When we were first introduced to Solid Ground, we were a family trying to find our footing, just trying to make it through the day. I’d recently divorced my husband when my daughter was diagnosed with autism. My work couldn’t accommodate my schedule and I was forced to quit my job as a PCA. It was very difficult to coordinate as a single parent, and I moved in with family. But, when I was ready to move forward, COVID prolonged my plan of getting back on my feet. I wasn’t making an income and the divorce took all my savings to cover the cost of the lawyer.
The biggest barrier to housing though, was COVID. It really affected me in terms of finding a job that paid enough where I could support my kids. We weren’t homeless enough to get help, though. Other nonprofits and government programs didn’t consider us homeless because we were living with family. They called it doubled up. We weren’t in a shelter, so we didn’t have access to referrals, but we weren’t stable and independent either. We were stuck in the middle and we needed help to move forward.
I was connected to Solid Ground through my daughter’s school. The back-to-school paperwork asked, “are you homeless?” and thankfully, their definition included being doubled up. Soon after school started, the Washington County Homeless Liaison called to help and referred me to Anna with Solid Ground. Anna was already working with a property management company for another client and knew they had renovated apartments available in our school district. The whole process took about 2 weeks once we connected with Anna.
When you are trying to survive every day, you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. But this was real! We would have our own place again, finally. My kids were excited and really happy, especially my eldest. She called her cousins immediately after we moved in, “You guys want to see my new house” she asked, with an emphasis on “MY house”. I didn’t think they would be as excited as they were. It hit me when we were in the apartment, our apartment, that even though it was empty, they were proud to be in their own place. And I’m so thankful. I feel like it would have been a very long time before I could do it on my own. Solid Ground gave us hope.
Having Solid Ground help with a portion of the rent allows me to be a full-time student and save money for the future. I’ve been in school for over 10 years trying to complete my degree in Human Services. I really believe in my heart that there’s no way I will be able to provide for my kids and break out of poverty without finishing my education. In my eyes, education is the key to success moving forward because it gives us options. When you are trying to survive, you can only see the next step in front of you, and you don’t get to choose. Having options is empowering. When I have the power to choose all the options for my life – that’s success. That’s when I’ll know I’ve made it.
I’ve had a lot of setbacks and challenges in my life, but I’ve worked to be a present and stable mom for my daughters. It was hard to feel like I wasn’t a good mom because I couldn’t provide for them. It’s a relief to know that we now have a place to call our own. Now, I can do mom things with them. We can sit on the couch, cook a meal together… in our own space. I am finally able to provide that for them, and that makes me feel proud.