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Rosa's Story

Just under a year ago, Rosa was living in a car with her 11-year old daughter and a baby growing in her belly. This was her first time experiencing homelessness and she was worried about finding somewhere stable for her family to call home. She had first left her home country in South America when she was exposed to violence and came to Calgary with her mother over a decade ago.

Fortunately, Rosa was able to access one of Calgary’s family shelters before she delivered a healthy baby girl and soon after she was referred to Aspen’s Sustainable Families program to support her in finding new housing. With the help of her Family Strategist, Rosa, her two daughters and her dog have now been in their current home since last August and she has turned it into a truly beautiful space! She is getting towards the end of her maternity leave and has plans to return to school soon.

We checked in with Rosa last week to ask her how she and her family were doing given the ongoing public health crisis that is COVID 19:

ASPEN: Tell us what you have been up to since measures were put in place in mid-March to curb the spread of COVID-19!

ROSA: We have been spending almost all our time in the house. During the first two weeks, we were watching TV all the time and feeling so stressed! I was initially worried about what would happen and feeling depressed. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been moving around more, and the girls are playing together more. The good weather is helping too. We are planning more stuff together to do around the house. I like being around people and also my own quiet time, so this has been hard for me but also I know how to handle it [because I have been on maternity leave].

Another thing I learned after the first two weeks is not to watch too much news. I don’t watch the news every second, because it just causes me more stress. Some people [feel] more stress, some people get more relief from watching the news. It’s good to know how it makes you feel before you just watch it all the time.

ASPEN: How is it having both of your daughters - one who is still a baby and another who is 11 - at home all the time now?

ROSA: My [older] daughter is so good! She [has] online classes 2-3 times a week. We are doing homework together as a family. The baby is enjoying time with her older sister too. I’m lucky – my daughter is mature and is always trying to do things to help around the house, or carries the baby or makes her little sister’s [crib]. She likes to help out with the baby a lot! Now we are more together like a family and doing more stuff together – Like, the baby likes to watch cartoons so we are watching them together with her! My baby daughter is almost walking now and we are preparing for that around the house. Now we are having a little bit more fun as a family.

ASPEN: You are someone who stays very connected to your extended family in Calgary. How are they doing and how are you staying connected to them?

ROSA: The biggest thing that is affecting our family is my grandmother passed away a few weeks ago. My mother struggled because she couldn’t go see her in person, back home [in South America]. When someone passes away, the most important thing is to visit with them, so the biggest challenge as a family is to not be together with my grandmother. I have stayed in touch with my mom. She lives two minutes away, we do still visit her but we aren’t able to touch her. We are four sisters, and we are all trying to talk to her over the phone. We are trying to talk over the phone with my family a lot!

ASPEN: How are your daughters staying connected to their friends and family?

ROSA: My daughter is a bit shy about talking with her cousins or friends over video chat! She always asks “what am I going to say? I don’t have anything to talk to with them.” Before school was closed, she was talking with her friends but now they don’t have that much to talk about now that their lives are less busy. But she is doing ok and likes being at home with me and her little sister.

ASPEN: How has Aspen’s Sustainable Families program supported you over the last year and now?

ROSA: When I first got my worker from Aspen [when I was living in the shelter], she was like the angel I needed at that moment! She’s very helpful. If I need anything, she figures out a way to help me do it even if it’s almost impossible! When I need something, I ask, and my worker always checks in with me to make sure I am doing ok. I’m just thankful that she is there for me, even if I don’t need something immediately. She helps me to figure out what I need and makes me feel cared for. She calls me every week to check in.

ASPEN: What are you most excited about doing once public health orders are lifted?

ROSA: I want to bring both my daughters outside to play in the park! My other next steps will be doing upgrading so I can become a social worker. I have already signed up to start some upgrading courses online from May-July. Next semester, I hope I will be going to school in person!

ASPEN: If someone in Calgary was reading this blog post and wanted to find a way to help others in their community during this difficult time, what would you say?

ROSA: I would like to say to everyone to be safe and healthy by following instructions until this ends. We are staying inside for us, our kids, and our grandparents. You’re not doing this only for you, but for your kids and your loved ones.

~Kate Haney, Team Lead of Sustainable Families

Our Sustainable Families team isn’t doing many home visits in person now, but we are delivering essential services remotely to families exiting homelessness in Calgary. We continue to work collaboratively with partners in the sector to ensure every family has a safe place to live at this time. If you’d like to donate to support this work, please visit https://www.aspenfamily.org/programs/sustainable-families.

We are staying inside for us, our kids, and our grandparents. You’re not doing this only for you, but for your kids and your loved ones.

— Rosa