Patricia’s Story

We first met Patricia well into her journey towards housing and sobriety. She was connected with Berenice Gutierrez, Housing Matters’ Employment Training Specialist, and they worked together to navigate the available resources in our community and find suitable housing. We are so proud of Patricia and the strength she has fostered to get to where she is today. Her openness and compassion is infectious and we are eager to see what her future holds.

I grew up affected by addiction and abuse at a young age. My grandmother drank often and my mother had me when she was 16 years old. I was often alone growing up, having to navigate the world with an alcoholic grandmother, a mother who worked 2 jobs, and an abusive stepfather. I came to Santa Cruz with my ex-husband who is a Santa Cruz native in the early 2000s and have been here ever since. 

After years of drinking to cope with the deeply embedded trauma I had experienced, at 44 I discovered methamphetamines. I expected my usage to be temporary as I was dealing with severe PTSD from an abusive relationship and lingering effects of childhood trauma. That was not the case.

Within a year and a half, I lost it all: my sons, our pets, our apartment, and everything in it. I also totaled my car after driving while sleep-deprived. I became homeless with one foot in search of sobriety and one foot in search of drugs. I couldn’t find support to detox, which I needed to do before going to rehabilitation. 

Contrary to what some may think, an addict can’t just walk into a rehab center and get help. They are rejected until they can do a detox, typically 5 days of sobriety. Some rehabs have detox beds but not many. I had a very hard time finding a detox bed in town. Lucky for me, a sober friend drove me to Victory Outreach in Salinas where I could detox. I was still using drugs in the backseat of the car on the way there. 

I got out of detox and needed help getting pointed in the right direction as I transitioned into rehab. Up until this point, I was working with a CalWORKS caseworker for support. I was feeling so embarrassed and ashamed because of my struggle with addiction and just wanted to hide. I couldn’t be honest with my caseworker, which greatly prevented me from growing. 

Then I met Berenice and everything changed. 

I desperately needed advocacy to help me stand bigger, and she became my advocate. She was kind and supported me throughout it all. And plus, she never changed, she’s been the same, consistent support since the moment I met her. This stability was something I deeply needed throughout this time. We worked together to get my housing voucher and all the documents I needed to apply for housing. 

Berenice also helped me navigate the services in the community that were available, including the Faith Community Shelter and the Homeless Garden Project, where I worked for 12 months.

The more effort I put into my work with Berenice, the more I got out of it. She advocated for me when I couldn’t for myself. With this support, I was compelled to continue moving forward. 

I experienced humility and gratefulness along this journey and with the service providers I worked with. I grew through some severe lows at Janus, lows of such depth that I normally would have “had” to have a drink. My depression and sadness was always too painful to feel so I ran from it, numbing myself with anything I could get my hands on. This time was different; I stayed sober. 

I am now 18 months sober and have a home of my own. I am working hard to make up for lost time with my children and have completed a 15 week Triple P Positive Parenting Program that has been an experience I wish I’d done years ago. I have a great job and am so excited to be a part of the team I am on. I experienced some serious miracles since getting clean and making good choices and I really owe it all to God.

This story was collected in May of 2021 by Andrea Feltz, Community Conversations Program Manager