Isabel Tellez - Homeless as a child on the streets of Mexico City, now living the American Dream of homeownership
When I first heard about the United Way of Kern County’s FISH (Financial Independence Starts Here) Program at a staff meeting at work, I said to myself: “Have your own business, pay for school, or buy a house and make the American Dream come true? Whatever, these people don’t read the news—they just want more foreclosures to happen.”
But then, I kept on reading the pamphlet where it says that, “When a participant reaches his or her savings goal (usually $2,000), they earn a $2 match for each dollar saved.” Mmmmhhh….that caught my attention.
Then, I thought, “Wow, that’s awesome! Six months later I thought, “Hey, I can do that. Why not?!” So I called and attended an orientation.
Trust me, it’s not an easy task to put money aside when you are a single mother of three—one of whom is disabled—and a lot of your salary automatically has to go toward clothing and feeding them. But even though it's hard, it's not impossible.
I’ve encountered many difficulties in my life. I became homeless together with my brother Israel in my native country at the age of 6, and we somehow managed to survive on the streets of Mexico City. I still cherish a photo that my grandmother took of me and my brother when she found us and got us off the streets.
We came to the United States when I was 12. I went to school but found it hard not knowing the language. Nevertheless, I graduated high school with honors at the age of 17, but I didn’t go to college because in my culture they encourage you to go to work and you are lucky if you get to graduate from high school at all.
As an adult, I put myself through school, and last year I was the first one in my family to graduate from college. I have my AA in Criminal Justice and plan to go to CSUB for my BA. I don’t mean to sound like I am a narcissistic person, but I like the quote, "The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do."
Since 2006, I have worked for the Bakersfield Homeless Center, where I am currently an accounting clerk. In my humble opinion, our organization and I work with the ongoing social problem of homelessness: providing such services as emergency shelter and food, and helping those in need to become self-sufficient.
United Way of Kern County is a funding partner to Bakersfield Homeless Center and other members of the Kern County Homeless Collaborative. Our United Way works to mobilize the caring power of communities to make a difference in people’s lives. I hope United Way continues to do this for many years to come. I want to help educate the local community and raise awareness about financial stability in Kern County so that our kids can grow and live in a safe and healthy environment. But we—United Way, Bakersfield Homeless Center, and all their partners—need you. We need your help.
It is only through your cooperation and support during hard times that single moms like me, parents of disabled children, the homeless and others who need more resources, can truly reach our full potential.
Each of us knows how difficult our economy has been in the last few years. But what I want everyone to know is that great need calls for more services in the community.
The FISH program has helped me buy my own house—the American Dream that I once had. I’m sure the program will benefit others, whether they want to start their own business, buy a house or continue their education.
United Way, I truly appreciate what you do for the community. Your commitment to your cause and your daily hard work is amazing. I will always be indebted to United Way—and the bank until I finish paying for my house!
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