Karen Martinez

Karen Martinez Wins. Big Time!

Karen Martinez, 39, has come a long way. About a year ago, she and her little girl Cloey, 3, arrived in San Francisco and were homeless. With the help of the nonprofit Compass organization, she found housing at TNDC’s Civic Center Residence this March.

Since then, she has completed her GED and two computer courses. She also attended the Cypress Mendela W.I.S.T. pre-apprentice school in Oakland and was admitted to the carpenters union. But with the construction downturn, there is no work for her yet though she’s ready when there is.

Having Community Support And when asked about making so much progress in so short a time, Karen says, “There are many nonprofits in the Tenderloin ready to help you. But you have to ask. I don’t know why so many people don’t get the help that’s there.”

Soon, Karen will be moving to the south part of the city in a two-bedroom apartment made possible by Section 8 federal funding. She has also received SSI for Cloey who has epilepsy.

Determination Over Adversity But strong-willed Karen wants more for her family. “I want off this welfare,” she says. “It’s okay and it’s helped me, but I want a job.” And there is little doubt that this determined mother will get one.

Karen is no stranger to hard times. She was an abused child and her marriage was marred by ongoing domestic violence. She eventually took Cloey and fled South America where she and her husband lived. But ran once again with her daughter when her husband found her in her native Boston. This time to San Francisco.

Creating Stability Just how did she move from being homeless to making a stable life here?

Eating at St. Anthony’s Dinning Hall. Sometimes staying with friends. In general, looking for help where she could find it. “It’s hard, but you find ways to make it,” she says. “I’d wake up in the mornings not knowing how I could make it through another day. I’d just look at Cloey’s beautiful little face and keep going. She is my whole life. Everything is for her.”

Karen has been through a lot but continues to be strong. “I’ve worked hard to get where I am,” she continues. “And I’m going to continue working until I get to where I want to be.”

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