One year ago, William and Elimar Roper moved their family into a three bedroom apartment in Albuquerque. This was a momentous time for William, an army veteran who was having a difficult time finding adequate work to support his family upon discharge from the armed forces. The family had been homeless for nearly three years, living in motels and homeless shelters.
“It was so stressful being homeless with three kids. I was scared. It was one of my biggest fears growing up. I was afraid they would take my kids away if I couldn’t care for them by providing a home,” explains Elimar. The family was grateful that they could all stay together at Joy Junction, a local Albuquerque homeless shelter, but it was still temporary.
Finally, in November of 2014, the Ropers received a housing voucher from the Supportive Housing Coalition of New Mexico through the City of Albuquerque Veterans Heading Home program. Since that time they have received supportive services through the Veterans Integration Center (VIC), Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, and Heading Home.
“We were very grateful to Joy Junction,” William states, “it was better than sleeping in the station wagon.” But it was difficult to save enough money to actually move out into permanent housing. And it was challenging to cook, clean, and keep things organized for their family.
Now in their own home for a year, William and Elimar reflect on the changes in their life. “We have more freedom, no curfews, able to have visitors. The kids are not so confined and are more willing to clean, do chores, and take care of their own space.” William’s favorite pastime is to come home and watch cartoons with the kids – something they couldn’t do at the shelter. “We have more room, we are more relaxed, we are back to reality, and we are starting to make friends.”
“We still have worries,” states Elimar, “money, getting a car, obtaining my citizenship.” Through their case manager at the VIC, they have been able to work towards citizenship for Elimar and job leads for William. Elimar hopes that once she establishes her citizenship that she will be able to get a job and help with the family finances. “I would like to get receptionist work, I’m very good with computers.”
Note: All the while they were homeless, the Roper’s son Jonathan asked Santa Claus for a house for Mommy and Daddy. Because of this, the Ropers chose Christmas to create a new and significant family tradition in their new home. They bought a Christmas tree early in November and each child gets to put one ornament a day on the tree up until Christmas. Four days before Christmas, the youngest, Jerome, will place the star on the tree.