An organization that knows individual redemption takes the support of a community.
By Gina V. Ramsay
When Zora found herself homeless, on drugs and pregnant, she knew she had to clean up her life.
Zora, 32, grew up in Chicago with ‘good parents’ who went through a ‘nasty divorce.’
“I ended up on drugs and in an abusive relationship. After years of abuse, I fled to California in search of a better life.”
However, a new state did not end her old habits. Zora was still struggling with substance abuse and ended up homeless, living in motels, sleeping on random people’s couches or in their cars. When she became pregnant with daughter Bella, Zora entered an intensive 10-month program to help her clean up. She later moved into a sober living facility, where Zora eventually began making life goals again.
“I had always dreamed of finishing my AA degree, but I didn’t know how I was going to do it because I couldn’t afford daycare,” she said.
Residents at the sober living home told her about Precious Lamb Preschool, a faith-based early education center available free of charge to children living in shelters and rehabilitation programs in Long Beach. Because Zora and her daughter lived in a sober living facility, Bella
was accepted into Precious Lamb Preschool.
Precious Lamb Preschool’s motto is ‘Breaking the cycle of homelessness, one child at a time’ and has been serving hundreds of Long Beach families since 2002. Children from 18-months to 5-years-old are provided tuition-free education, home-style meals, and a safe place to explore and grow, which allows their parents to focus on sobriety, their own mental health,
education, work, and securing permanent housing.
Precious Lamb Preschool Development Director Alexandra Gray has heard numerous stories similar to Zora’s.
“I believe that homelessness is a problem rooted in policy, not people,” Gray said. “Most of the population we serve, like single mothers, need access to resources and opportunities to build themselves a better life and we do that here at Precious Lamb Preschool.”
After hearing other parents’ testimonies at the preschool’s events such as their annual fundraiser, Gray has noticed a common thread.
“I’ve noticed such a trend of strength, resilience and hope that only God can provide through such adversity and trauma.”
Though Gray, fortunately, has never personally experienced homelessness, she was inspired to be a part of the preschool because of the school’s mission.
“What inspired me to be a part of Precious Lamb Preschool was to fulfill a passion being on a team that carries out God’s mission of love and support to those most vulnerable.”
She has also been ‘fueled’ to get more involved on a policy level to alleviate the core issues of poverty in Long Beach.
Since the three years that Bella started school at Precious Lamb, Zora has had another daughter (who also attends the preschool with her big sister), finished her AA degree from Long Beach City College, and is currently a fulltime student at Cal State Los Angeles working on her bachelor’s degree in Psychology.
“Precious Lamb has made it possible for me,” Zora said. “They also have given me so much support when my father passed away; they truly care.”
Gray has witnessed how programs such as Precious Lamb Preschool can change an entire family’s life for the better, such as Zora’s family.
“To see how Precious Lamb has impacted [Zora] and given her tools to succeed and graduate from Long Beach City College is beautiful and a testament to her determination and God’s plan for her life,” said Gray.
Zora, now 5 years sober, has also found stable housing for herself and her little girls. “I have a life beyond my wildest dreams.”
Every day in Long Beach, there are children facing uncertainty. Homelessness, food insecurity, and lack of transportation, among other concerns, create an unstable environment for young children making the ability to thrive very challenging. Precious Lamb seeks to be the first stop for these children on their way to education and breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty in their family. Our goals are to educate, support and enrich them in their daily lives. Precious Lamb Preschool is available free of charge to children living in shelters and rehabilitation programs in the greater Long Beach area. Learn more at www.PreciousLamb.org.