Upon meeting, Dawn, a mother of four children, exudes a positive and enthusiastic attitude. She seemed eager to share her story. Her two teenage girls, Morgan and Kaley, accompanied her. One would never guess the difficulties the family has experienced in the past.
Dawn, now 38, has lived in Butte County all her life. She led a very normal life in the small town of Biggs. Dawn was in high school and very involved in sports. A tragedy at 15 sent her life into a downward spiral. Her three-year-old brother, to whom she was very close, drowned in a neighbor’s pool while Dawn was babysitting. That was a pivotal moment in her life, so much so that the following year was a blur. She blamed herself for the accident and had trouble coping with the grief. Moreover, her parents divorced the year after the drowning, and she transferred to Gridley High School. Sports had been her life, but because she transferred out of the Biggs district, where she and her mother still lived, she was not allowed to continue in sports. Dawn had to find new friends, and the friends she found were the wrong ones. At 17 she was introduced to drugs, and that helped blunt the pain she was feeling over all the changes in her life.
She struggled off and on for the next 17 years before she finally made a call to the Torres Shelter. She was desperate to change. Dawn was living in Oroville, on drugs, living on the street and had nowhere to go. She could not live with her mother as long as she was using. The day she phoned the Shelter she also stopped using meth. She had had enough. She could have gone to the shelter in Oroville, but she wanted a fresh start away from the drug climate she knew there. Her four children were safe with her mother in Oroville.
The Torres Shelter assured her that as long as she tested clean they would take her in.
She brought her youngest child Luken, who was five at the time, with her. They were given a private room.
Dawn says Volunteer Coordinator, also named Dawn, was extremely welcoming when she and Luken first arrived at the Torres Shelter, and she continues to be extremely helpful and kind. She credits Bill with helping to hone her parenting skills while there. She learned to be less reactive and to be more patient, and he helped her to learn to better communicate with her children. They now function well as a family.
There were challenges too. The family ate breakfast at the Jesus Center and then had to figure out where to spend the rest of the day until returning to the Shelter. When school was out for the summer all four children joined Dawn at the Shelter. Even her oldest son Thomas, a senior at Oroville High School and playing on the football team, would ride the bus to Oroville for practice and then ride back to Chico to be with the family at the Shelter. They had a family room with bunk beds, and Dawn felt grateful for the privacy. During the summer they were here, the girls participated in the month-long Chico Creek Day Camp, a very good experience.
However, by the time Dawn left the Shelter she was more than ready for her own place. She said one of the things she appreciates so much about having been at the Shelter was the fact that she was able to have clean underwear and socks, things most people take for granted.
Dawn and her family left the Torres Shelter in August and transitioned to the Esplanade House. Now, Dawn has housing in Oroville, and is working two jobs: at IHSS (In-Home Support Services) and as a server at Applebee’s.