By John Grossi
Cinthia Davenport strokes her daughter’s hair as her daughter begins to draw. “You wouldn’t
believe how many pieces of paper we go through. This girl LOVES to draw.”
The mom and daughter live in new permanent housing built by Precious Life Shelter. The apartments are available for rent by the graduates of Precious Life, a non-profit shelter program that helps homeless, struggling pregnant women get back on their feet and stabilize a new life for their children. Women like Cinthia who have seen the darkest of nights and the lowest of lows, are able to reshape their life and get the help they need.
“It used to be so hard for me to talk about [my past]. But now I’m much more comfortable. If
talking about it can help someone, I’m really happy to.”
A Dark Past
Cinthia had her son when she was just 18 years old. That same year, she went to a party where something was put in her drink and she was raped by three men. She ended up having a miscarriage soon thereafter. She spiraled into a deep dark depression. A brief marriage with the father of her child did not work out. She began to struggle with drugs and addiction.
Living with her mother and grandmother began to feel toxic as the bad choices she was making were only magnified under their scrutiny. She ended up leaving her son under their care and took to living full time on the streets.
Eight long years, she spent on the streets. Struggling every day for gas, food, and drugs. She’d go to a rehab here and there but it didn’t matter. She knew all the wrong people in LA. They would find her or she would find them and then it was back to old habits.
By the time she was 26, Cinthia felt bone-tired and broken. Her son was now in full custody of his father. Cinthia still lived in her car. She was pregnant again. She was fed up. She remembers just parking her car in some random neighborhood and sleeping for almost 24 hours straight. She had nothing to do, no money to spend, and nowhere to go. She desperately wanted help for herself and for the new baby growing inside her. She wanted to get clean.
A Red Cross worker referred her to Precious Life Shelter.
This was not the shelter that she had imagined in her head. This was a home, with real beds and sofas and a kitchen. She cried. She hadn’t eaten a home cooked meal in years. She remembers having to give up her cell phone for a year, and the Precious Life Shelter employee saying a lot of the women had trouble with that. Cinthia didn’t. Her phone was already disconnected. The truth was, she was excited to be completely disconnected from her LA life.
There were lots of things that made Precious Life Shelter the “right” place for Cinthia. First and foremost was the counseling. She had so many dark secrets she thought she had to take to her grave. Allowing herself to separate from those toxic thoughts allowed her to avoid toxic
Cinthia got a job at McDonalds, where she would eventually work her way up to manager. Cinthia’s mom, who remained supportive throughout Cinthia’s entire addiction and recovery, visited Precious Life Shelter and begged her daughter to stay there. It was nicer than anything
she could have expected.
At Precious Life Shelter, for the first time ever, Cinthia was taught about budgeting. A concept that changed her life. “Before I used to literally live paycheck to paycheck. I never knew about saving,” says Cinthia.
Today, Cinthia’s life is a wonderful routine, something she wouldn’t change for the world. She gets up, takes her daughter to school, then goes to her new job working as a medical assistant at a dermatology office in Long Beach. When she gets off work, she picks up her daughter and the two spend the evening together. Their home is a walk away from school and pretty much anything else she needs.
She has a whole new set of friends now and is amazed at the conversations they have and
bonds they’ve made in normal sober settings. So unlike her environment growing up, no one feels the need to drink or do drugs to have fun.
Best of all, Precious Life Shelter helped her win back custody rights for her son. She now spends each weekend with both her son and daughter, and often with her own mom who is as grateful as anyone for Cinthia’s recovery.
“She still cries at Thanksgiving and I’m like, oh my God, that’s old! Get over it lady, I’ve been clean for so long, be thankful for something else!” Cinthia says laughing about her mother.
Meanwhile, she says the holidays for her are “a dream” spent happily with both her children
in this new life they’ve created. Like her own mother, grateful to have such loving, happy, healthy kids, Cinthia, now 31, and 5 years clean, knows more than most, just how precious life truly is!
Precious Life is a residential supportive services program opened in 1989 for the homeless pregnant adult woman and her children. Our program provides emergency, parenting and transitional housing which includes educational programs with life skill classes, pre/post birth and delivery preparation, parenting, in a drug/alcohol free environment to provide our women a place to begin working, saving and preparing for independent living. Our long-term graduate housing allows a working mom to live in a safe environment as she sets goals to finish an education, look to a future “first time home buyer” opportunity and prepare for her next step as a parent. Learn more at www.preciouslifeshelter.org.