“The physical abuse started with him pushing me down and later ended with him throwing me through a wall.”
The physical abuse was only part of the reason Alexis Bustamante packed up her two children, and left her boyfriend of three years to find a better life. She ended up at Against Abuse Foundation, a homeless shelter in Casa Grande.
“He would tell me I wouldn’t amount to anything,” said Alexis.
She set out to prove him wrong.
The young woman from Tucson who became a mother at 17 initially stayed with her abusive high school boyfriend, but eventually found the courage to leave, even though she wasn’t sure where she could go.
A co-worker suggested she reach out to the Community Action Human Resources Agency (CAHRA), a resource within the Arizona Department of Housing, which provides transitional housing to families with minor children who are facing homelessness. Alexis met with a representative and applied for admission. The CAHRA caseworker—funded in part by Community Services Block Grant money through the Department of Economic Security (DES)--helped secure housing in Casa Grande and provided utility and rent assistance.
This proved to be the turning point for her. Her caseworker at CAHRA told her about the services available through DES and she was able to apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and medical benefits.
With some stability in her life, Alexis knew her next step was to continue her education. She enrolled in Central Arizona College to pursue an Associate in Applied Science Medical Assistant degree. With the help of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA), part of the ARIZONA@WORK program in Pinal County, she received vouchers for her books, scrubs, school supplies, and gas to help in her educational process. Earning a degree meant going to school during the day while working two jobs in the afternoon and evening.
“It was difficult, but I knew I had to succeed for myself and my children,” said Alexis.
Her hard work and determination paid off. She graduated in 2013 with a 4.0 grade point average. A year later, she earned her Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification, and is currently working as the Center Administrator/ Medical Assistant, processing workers compensation claims for those injured on the job.
This past spring, Alexis wrote to the Pinal County Housing Department, offering to forfeit her housing voucher.
“The help that was provided to me was such a relief. I feel very fortunate to have this available to me in my time of crisis. Being a single mother of two is tough, being homeless, it was even harder. This wonderful program gave me that extra boost of confidence that I needed to know that everything was going to be OK.”
--Alexis Bustamante, in a letter to the Pinal County ARIZONA @ WORK staff
“I would like to express my deepest thank you to everyone that has helped me along my journey since 2011,” she wrote. “When I first started the housing program, I was lost and confused as a young adult…I am very appreciative, thankful and grateful that this type of program exists for the people that really need it.”
Her message to other young women and men: there is help out there, from food and housing to education.
“There are so many resources in Pinal County that are not being utilized,” explained Alexis.
Alexis is willing to share her story, even though—in her words—it’s “very personal and kind of embarrassing” because she thinks it’s important for those in similar situations to know abuse is not okay, and you have a choice to leave. There are people out there who care and will help you.
Alexis says her experience during the most difficult time in her life has humbled her, and made her into the successful woman and mother she is today.
“Don’t ever give up, believe in yourself.”