June 20, 2008

Needy family struggles to get ahead

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

There are nights when Luz Mendez’s three children go to bed hungry.

Each morning, instead of having breakfast and heading off to school, the children eat something light when there’s something to eat and then spend all day inside the small mobile home.

The mobile home is located in a truck yard with old tires on the roof and all around.

To take a bath, they have to use buckets of water outside.

From left to right: Elias, Noemi, Luz Mendez, and Viviana live in a small mobile home in the middle of a truck yard in an industrial zone in Otay Mesa. The children are not in school and they need help.

The kids are malnourished. Their mother, Luz Mendez, struggles to support them with her job cleaning houses.

The story of these three children, two teenagers ages 15 and 14, and a girl age 9, is not going on in a Third World country or in a poor colonia in Tijuana.

This family of four lives in a small mobile home in the middle of a truck yard in Otay Mesa on the U.S. side, just a few blocks from the Otay Mesa port of entry.

And this is not an undocumented family either: The mother and the two older children are permanent legal residents and the youngest daughter is a U.S. citizen.

The parents divorced three years ago, and the father helps them with what the court ordered him: $400 a month, but they use most of it to pay for the space where the mobile home is located.

The mother, Luz Mendez, a 38 year old from Tijuana, said that since she divorced her husband she’s been struggling to support her three children with her less than $100 a week salary cleaning houses.

“It’s been rough times for us lately,” Mendez said. “Since September we’ve been living in this mobile home because that’s all I could afford. I want something better for my children.”

Mendez said that the kids haven’t been to school since September because she doesn’t have an official home address and because the truck yard where they live is an industrial zone.

The mother said that her goal is to get ahead with her children, with the two oldest needing special education, they have a learning disability.

“I just need three things to start a new life of quality for my children: a full-time job, that the children enroll in school, and a proper place to live, even if it’s a small room in an apartment,” “I haven’t been able to find a formal job because there are times when I don’t even have money for the bus fare.”

The mobile home where they live doesn’t have basic services, such as water, electricity or telephone. The restroom is a mobile potty like the ones they use at construction sites or public events.

During the summer, the mobile home gets really hot; in winter it gets so cold with ice and when it rains water leaks all over.

“You can imagine how I feel seeing my children like this. There are times when I cry out of desperation,” Mendez said. “I get mad at myself because of this situation, but I can’t get ahead, I need money and a job.”

The conditions are pretty bad. Even the 9 year old girl knows they could be living better.

“I don’t like it here, I want to go to school and play with other children,” said little Noemí. “There’s a lot of smoke here from the trucks and a lot of noise.”

Mendez said that she’s looked for social assistance but has received no answer.

She hopes to head out on her own, be independent and be able to support her kids and give them a good education.

“I’m sure I can make it,” she said. “I’m going to find a full-time job, I’m going to find a good place to live, and I’m going to make sure my children go to school in August.”

If you would like to if you want to assist this family and children contact La Prensa San Diego at (619) 425-7400.

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