A home built together: Nevada County couple conquers homelessness
Special to The Union
It’s not easy to be homeless but it is easy to get there. Just ask 22-year-old Elyssia Glassco and 36-year-old Danny Bonilla.
When the duo met by chance at a local apartment complex in December 2016, they had one commonality: homelessness. Bonilla spent a total of five to six years homeless and Glassco three years, but this chance encounter slowly put them both on a path that led to stability and housing.
From the moment they met, Bonilla knew he wanted to be with Glassco but he also knew he was harboring a dangerous secret — he was addicted to heroin and for the past 17 years, addiction consumed his life, resulting in not only homelessness, but regular bouts of imprisonment.
Glassco, on the other hand, became homeless following a disconnect with her family. Problems at home, coupled with her desire for independence, led to an order to vacate and subsequent homelessness.
‘MOVE FORWARD OR MOVE ON’
After Glassco and Bonilla met, it took Glassco only two weeks to discover Bonilla’s addiction. On New Year’s Eve, she found Bonilla in the bathroom with a needle dangling from his leg. The sight of him and the needle scarred her memory and resulted in a pivotal ultimatum that moment.
“We’re either going to move forward from this or I am going to have to move on because I can’t do this,” recalled Glassco. “I can’t have current addiction in my life. I’ve never touched a drug.”
Glassco has family members who have struggled with addiction and was unwilling to compromise having any illegal substances in her life. Likewise, Bonilla too has a family history of addiction and fell into the cycle. He began smoking marijuana in fourth grade and following the tragic loss of his brother at age 16, the only coping mechanism that helped was pharmaceutical opioids, which eventually evolved into heroin and crank.
“Support, structure and someone that cared, you know. I never had that before,” Bonilla said. “All they (friends) wanted to do was get loaded with me. Her actually caring was a big catalyst to my sobriety.”
Because of Glassco, Bonilla gave up using that night and has maintained his sobriety ever since, along with steady employment. However, despite abstinence and jobs, the two still had no stable living environment and couch surfed to get by. They eventually found a quiet place to camp in the forest up Highway 20 where they remained undisturbed for approximately eight months until heavy snow forced them to take a hard look at reality … they were homeless, hungry and surviving in a tent.
A SAFE HAVEN
With limited resources, they reluctantly turned to Hospitality House for help and were surprised when they were met with by staff and volunteers, who cared about their well-being.
“I know without Hospitality House, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am,” said Bonilla. “I have no clue where I would be without the help.”
“Hospitality house is really a safe haven … it made me feel safe,” added Glassco, who noted while it was safe, it was equally challenging to live in tight quarters with dozens of people, which heightened her anxiety.
All in all, the duo found stability and dependability at Hospitality House, knowing every night they had a guaranteed bed, food, support and the case management needed to return to stable housing … and in time, housing is what they found.
“I responded to probably 300 Craigslist ads and heard from maybe 10,” recalled Glassco. “It just shows you the lack of housing in our community and I don’t know, it’s just hard, it really is.”
Glassco and Bonilla, along with Hospitality House staff, tirelessly looked for rentals for the couple over the course of several months. Glassco also strengthened her relationship with her parents during this time and soon thereafter, temporarily moved back home until permanent housing could be secured.
PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF
Persistency for a new home paid off and in April of this year, she and Bonilla moved into a room rental together.
“Two months after we got a house, we found out we were having a baby,” smiled Glassco. “My mom actually just said to me the other day, ‘You know, when you guys have this baby, I don’t want to see you guys in the shelter or ever hear you say you’re hungry again.’”
Since then, the couple is doing everything in their power to ensure they never end up back on the streets or in the shelter. They both work full time, pay their bills, and both have loving support from their respective families.
Most of all, they’re happy to have a home for their growing family … in a home they built together.
Ashley Quadros is development director at Hospitality House in Grass Valley.
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Two hundred and one. That’s the number of homes posted for sale in western Nevada County as of April 16.