Blairmarie Martin, 24, smiled as she tucked her three sons, ages 2 to 6, into dinosaur-printed sleeping bags on the floor of their shared bedroom. She proceeded to her room, turning in for the night as she collapsed onto an air mattress.
Beds are among the many furnishings absent from the family’s two-bedroom home – but Martin doesn’t mind.
“I’m just happy to have a home now,” she said. “I never thought this day would come.”
Just more than a month ago, the family was homeless, living out of a cramped Dodge Ram truck with no more than a few garbage bags of belongings. Before that, they bounced from couch to couch, motel to motel, shelter to shelter for more than two years.
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The beginning of Martin’s financial and emotional struggle began at age 18, when she became pregnant with her first son, Zayvion, who is now 6. The relationship between Martin and her foster mother, whom she lived with at the time, was strained and Martin decided to move in with the father of her children.
When the couple’s relationship ended, Martin was forced onto the street with her children. She found herself with no place to go, no one to rely on.
“I’m not mad at anyone and I don’t blame anyone,” she said. “When people couldn’t help us out or give us a place to stay, I felt like, ‘Well, these are my children. I chose to have them. They’re my responsibility.’ ”
During brief periods of employment, Martin watched as her paychecks quickly disappeared paying for motel rooms, leaving no money for basic living expenses, such as food and transportation, for her family.
She found it difficult to remain employed without a stable home. Basic tasks, such as cleaning her uniform or arriving to work on time, seemed impossible and resulted in lost positions.
“Being homeless and having a job just doesn’t work out,” she said.
In July, Martin decided to open a case through Child Protective Services in a desperate attempt to give her sons a better life.Book of Dreams 2015: How to donate
“I was just so scared that CPS would take away my children,” she said. “I didn’t want them in foster care like I was, but I really needed help.”
Days later, she received a phone call from Donja-Marie Garvey, CEO of My Mother’s Voice – a Roseville-based nonprofit that serves young, single mothers. Garvey immediately connected Martin to services through My Mother’s Voice and promised to help find the family a home.
After enduring a three-month housing search throughout Placer and Sacramento counties, Garvey finally landed a space for the family in late October.
“When everyone else turned me away or couldn’t help, Donja never gave up on me,” Martin said. “I was just so lucky to find someone who actually cared about my family.”
Despite its lack of furniture and belongings, a safe and stable home has given the family a much-needed reprieve from the struggles of homelessness.
“I remember a time when I took my boys to wash up in a Taco Bell bathroom before school,” she said. “Now I can give them a bath in our own bathroom. It’s a great feeling to have a permanent home. I’m so grateful.”
My Mother’s Voice has asked Book of Dreams readers to bring comfort to Martin and her three children by helping purchase basic furnishings for the home, including bed frames, mattresses, a crib, sheets and pillows.
With a stable home to live in and services offered through My Sister’s House, Martin was given the opportunity to return to work at a pharmaceutical distribution company in Sacramento. Her children are also able to consistently attend school.
My Mother’s Voice has also supported Martin, and many single mothers, through a variety of holistic services aimed at breaking generational cycles of poverty. The organization seeks to link mothers with emotional counseling, child care, professional coaching, housing assistance and educational support.
“The cycle of staying poor to survive is the main behavior we change through our programs and services,” Garvey said.
Garvey, a former teacher, encourages the program’s mothers to pursue college degrees and ensures that their children build a strong educational base at a young age.
“In order for single and teen moms to be entirely self-sufficient, they need to have an education to reach financial self-sufficiency,” Garvey said. “Young, directionless mothers often become bound to government assistance, making it difficult to finish an education. It often traps them in a lifelong cycle of poverty for both themselves and their children.”
Martin plans to return to school in the near future to earn a degree in the health sciences and later pursue a career in medicine.
“I want my children to have a better life than they’ve had so far,” Martin said. “I want to be able to support them. I don’t want my kids to financially struggle like I have. I want to be in a place to help them.”
Needed: My Mother’s Voice seeks funds to purchase beds, mattresses, sheets, pillows and other necessities for Blairmarie Martin’s family.
Here’s a list of wishes published so far in the series:
Dream: Funds are sought to help pay for items for Melissa Oliver’s wedding. Oliver’s father, Danny, a Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy, was killed in the line of duty in October 2014.
Needed: Wedding dress, groom suit and cake
Dream: Next Move’s Family Shelter seeks funds to supply clothing to comfort homeless children.
Needed: Pajamas, socks and underwear
Dream: My Sister’s Café, a branch of the nonprofit My Sister’s House, needs work apparel for its workers.
Needed: New aprons and uniform T-shirts
Dream: Funding for blanket-making equipment for the Elk Grove-based Gramma’s Hugs Factory
Needed: Three special sewing machines
Dream: Funds to purchase supplies for cognitive stimulation activities for adults with disabilities served by nonprofit Health for All
Needed: Art and music supplies, including a karaoke machine
Dream: Funds for a Rifton Pacer Gait Trainer for United Cerebral Palsy of Sacramento and Northern California. The device helps people with disabilities gain more mobility
Dream: Southside Art Center seeks money to purchase equipment and attire for employees in its recycling center program