On a summer night in 2017, in a dark McDonalds parking lot, nearly empty while the fast food hotspot is closed, there sits one, small car. Inside the car are three people: Monique Lewis, Micah Lewis, and Monet Lewis.
Micah and Monet are Monique’s two young kids. That night, the three of them don’t have a place to sleep, Monique’s car is their only option for shelter. So, the three of them pile in, drive to the empty McDonald’s parking lot, and do their best to sleep in the car before the kids go to school the next morning.
“It broke my heart that my kids and I only had my car,” Lewis says.
At this point, rough nights like this aren’t unusual for Monique and her kids. They’ve been struggling off and on since 2001- the year Monique was let go from her job. After that, Monique and her husband (who is also the father to Micah and Monet) divorced. Things continued to spiral downhill for the next 16 years while Monique took on care of her kids full time, and went from job to job. They were fighting to stay barely above the poverty line in Orange County- a county where the cost of living was said to be 87% higher than the national average in 2018.
Thinking back on an extremely tough moment where she was confronted head on by her kids awareness of their poverty, Lewis reflects on Christmas of 2017.
“I had to tell them that Santa wasn’t coming that year and they said ‘Mom we don’t care as long as we’re together.”
Monique Lewis is no stranger to struggle. She grew up in a broken, low-income home. Her father left the family when she was eight and her mother and grandmother who raised her, both died when Monique was 18. Freshly an adult just finishing high school, Monique and her sister were left with just each other and no one else.
In the summer of 2017, it seemed like the life of struggle and poverty was about to get even worse. The Lewis family had been using vouchers at hotels across Orange County in order to be able to afford them. On July 15th the Lewis family had reached the max amount of vouchers they were able to use for that month. Monique Lewis wasn’t sure where she and her kids were going to stay for the rest of the mont. Motels were too expensive, shelters were full, and she wanted to keep her kids close to their schools so things wouldn’t feel as tumultuous. That night, Monique reached her breaking point. She says she went down to the pool of the inn that she and the kids were staying at and started to pray and cry.
“I just said know what to do with them,” she says. ‘Lord I don’t know what you want me to do. You’ve given me these two babies and I don’t know what to do with them."
The next day Lewis had to get on the phone for a quick interview. Given the circumstances, she feels dejected during the call but does her best to keep it together. She says she had hoped she would get the job but she wasn’t counting on it because of how things seemed to be on a continuous downward spiral for years.
Turns out, Monique Lewis was wrong. She got a phone call the next day saying she’d gotten the job. And she got one other phone call...from the HomeAid Family CareCenter. That is the call that she says changed her life. Lewis found out that her family had been accepted to live in the newly opened CareCenter.
“Things just never got really stable for us until after HomeAid,” Lewis explains while getting emotional.
From that point on, life seemed to be getting brighter for the Lewis family. During their time in the Family CareCenter they were approved for an affordable apartment through Mercy House, Monique got a promotion at her job, and the kids both decided they wanted to work to help support the family as soon as they hit the legal working age.
“I’ve never told God to bless someone through homelessness like he did with me and my kids. But without Mercy House and Homeaid Orange County we wouldn’t have made it.”