Cheerful flowers, herbs and pumpkins fill flowerbeds at Jenny Vasquez’s Richland home.
The chance to plant her first garden since she defeated a longtime addiction to methamphetamine was among the reasons Vasquez was thrilled to move into the home owned by Elijah Family Homes this summer.
Last week, the nonprofit celebrated a two-year process of fixing up the duplex to house families from its three-year transitional housing program.
Vasquez jumped at the chance to have more room for her family. She and her daughters Eryn Nofziger, 19, and Emily Nofziger, 17, and Eryn’s 10-month-old daughter, Amayah Torres, share the home. They were already in the nonprofit’s program, but were living in a smaller Kennewick apartment.
This summer, the nonprofit was able to finish transforming the backyard from a wilderness of weeds to grass and gravel to give children a place to play. Vasquez hopes eventually to add a swing set.
The Richland home became the nonprofit’s in 2012, thanks to the city of Richland and a grant. The Bechtel Women’s Group donated $20,000 that year to help outfit the home with appliances.
But Ellen Kathren, the nonprofit’s executive director, said the nonprofit struggled to find a way to pay for landscaping. While applying for grants, some told them landscaping was frivolous. But Kathren and the nonprofit’s volunteer board wanted their families to be able to play in the yard.
Then, Crop Production Services and the Richland Rotary Club made finishing the backyard with grass, rocks and a patio possible, she said.
Richard Nordgren, the nonprofit’s former executive director, prayed during the dedication ceremony earlier this week that the families who live in the home will find it a safe and secure place to continue to grow in stability and recovery.
The nonprofit helps families who are working hard, but need a little support to transition to self-sufficiency. For three years, those families benefit from reduced rent and services to help them accomplish goals, including finishing school and finding stable jobs to support themselves and their children.
Elijah Family Homes started about nine years ago as a ministry of Christ the King Catholic Church in Richland to offer housing to low-income families who have been turned down by public housing programs. It became a separate nonprofit about seven years ago and has so far graduated seven families. Ten families are in the program now.
Vasquez, 41, said she needed the support Elijah Family Homes offered.
She has been clean for three years in July, after using meth since she was 20. Though she stopped using when she was pregnant with Eryn and Emily, she said after they were born, she started up again.
“I always thought it was too late for me,” she said.
But Vasquez said she realized that for her daughters to have a better life, she needed to have a better life too. And as they got older, she knew they knew she was using meth.
Vasquez said for two years she tried to get approval for treatment after she was charged with a drug-related crime. In 2011, Vasquez, who then lived in Moses Lake, was sentenced for possessing meth and was able to get inpatient treatment for three months and the help she needed to quit.
She then came to the Tri-Cities to get a fresh start. She spent a year and a half in Oxford House, a recovery housing program, and she says having that support from her housemates after inpatient treatment is what saved her.
Vasquez is still involved with Oxford House, volunteering and helping with Tri-City area homes. “I want everyone else to have the chance that I got,” she said.
She is working on finishing school to become an accountant. She graduated with her two-year degree from Columbia Basin College earlier this year, and is headed back to work toward either an accounting certification or a four-year degree if she decides to transfer to Washington State University Tri-Cities.
She’s also hunting for a job, since she recently lost her job when the local restaurant she worked at closed. And she aims to pay off fines so she can get her driver’s license back.
Vasquez says she can focus on her license now that she has helped her daughters get theirs and their own cars.
“Everything I have is because I am clean,” she said.
She also enjoys being involved in Amayah’s life. She loves to baby-sit her granddaughter and is filling colorful piggy banks with loose change for her. Today, she said, “any bad day is better than what my life used to be.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Donations can be sent to: Elijah Family Homes, 660 George Washington Way, Suite G, Richland, WA 99352.
For more information, go to http://elijahfamilyhomes.org.