Antonia's Story

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It all started almost 7 years ago, when my grandpa passed away. I had no other place to go – no other family. I would drink a lot and pop pills and that caused a lot of fighting and separation through the family. I came home from work one day after my grandpa passed away, and my mom was there with a u-haul and she said, “I’m taking my mom to live with me. You have to find somewhere else to live.” I didn’t speak to them for like a year and a half. I talk to her now, but there’s still issues.

I’ve been in the shelter off and on since 2012, but I’m finally getting permanent housing through Community Services Employment Training (CSET). I’m working two jobs right now. I’ve never been without a job. But when I find myself down and don’t have a place to go, this place is my home. They make me feel safe and welcome. I’ve been through a lot: abusive relationships, abusive past. 

I talk to a lot of the girls here and tell them my experience and what I’ve been through. I tell them to pray, pray, pray. That’s what I did. I tell them to talk to the staff because they're easy to talk to and they want to help you.

I was one of the first women doing the ECO Program with the city. When I did the Phase 2 interview with the manager, I told him I never realized how many homeless people there are in this city and how much trash there is. Now when I see someone litter, I’m like pick. it. up!

When I first came here, I was just mad at the world. I didn’t want to interact with anyone. I didn’t care. But now I’m asking if they need any help, I’ll do this, do that. They mean a lot to me cause this is my second family. I tell them all the time that they’re my family.

Ryan Stillwater

Ryan is a longtime Visalian — a graduate of Redwood High School and Fresno Pacific University with a bachelors degree in Christian Ministries. Intrigued by the partnership between the Visalia Rescue Mission and the City of Visalia, Ryan began putting his vision on paper as VRM's Oval Venue Coordinator in August 2013, and has sparked the interest of many throughout the community. Ryan and his wife Amy (a Mt. Whitney High School graduate) have been married for seven years and have three amazing kids — ages 6, 4, and 4.