Kennewick family thriving after getting hand up from Elijah Family Homes

KENNEWICK -- Trish Pesina-Mercado's family still is seeing the effects of Elijah Family Homes in the success of her five children in everything from sports to academics.

And the Kennewick woman is close to earning her state certification as a chemical dependency professional -- something she said couldn't have happened without her four years in the nonprofit's transitional housing program.

Elijah Family Homes offers housing and support services to families who can't qualify for public housing. Those families typically have dealt with a number of issues, such as addiction, a criminal convictions, domestic violence or other traumas.

Pesina-Mercado's family is one of four to have graduated from the program. Two more are graduating soon.

It's a rigorous program, said Ellen Kathren, program administrator. Clients undergo random drug tests and must attend recovery meetings and a monthly community meeting.

Some families have left, finding it wasn't for them, she said. Not everyone makes it to graduation. But those who do, do well.

Pesina-Mercado, 40, said her family broke the cycle of addiction, abuse and dysfunction.

She started drinking alcohol at 15 and progressed to drugs.

After losing custody of her children in 2003, Pesina-Mercado entered treatment, and by the time she was accepted into Elijah Family Homes in 2006, she had regained their custody.

Now, Pesina-Mercado is able to provide a good home for her children: Joey, 15, Lucas, 12, and Joaquin, 7. And her two older children, Jacob, 21, and Sami, 18, are living on their own.

"We have dreams and goals and hopes and aspirations that are not clouded by chemicals and dysfunction," she said.

Jacob is working and getting married in July. He plans to attend Columbia Basin College's welding program.

Sami is having a baby girl soon, but still plans to attend the medical assistant program through Job Corps.

Joey is a freshman at Delta High School with a goal of being a doctor or photographer.

Elijah Family Homes taught him how to save money and he was able to go to Washington, D.C., this summer -- a trip his mom said they couldn't have afforded otherwise.

Lucas is in seventh grade at Park Middle School, and Joaquin is a second-grader at Eastgate Elementary.

Pesina-Mercado works in Sunnyside as a counselor for Merit Resource Services and her partner, Nancy Delgado, has a full-time job with Washington Potato Co.

Together they no longer need help paying their rent.

"People need a hand up sometimes, not a hand out," Pesina-Mercado said.