There is a long, curvy dirt road leading off a main street deep into a rough area riddled with bumps and full of dust. A rooster can be heard crowing in the distance. This is a neighborhood of mobile and manufactured homes in Sun Valley, where life is hardscrabble and amenities are few or nonexistent. There are lots of wire fences and several “No Trespassing” signs. At the end of the road sits a pale, lime green home, where Eneida and her children live. She makes a lean living by working odd jobs, like painting, cutting grass, trimming trees, minor home-repair work—whatever it takes to help her and her family survive. She also cleans houses, and sometimes travels with her sister to work in other cities.
The odd jobs and housecleaning gigs have largely dried up as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Life is harder than usual. Eneida, a single mom, doesn’t ask for sympathy. She started working at 13 years old. She has also worked in the packing houses. She is used to hard work and managing with less. But she has also learned to ask for help when she needs it. We met her recently at one of the distribution sites, where the Valley Food Bank held a drive-through food pantry. She received a pre-packed kit with enough perishable food to feed a family of four for five days, along with some fresh bread and bakery goods.
Eneida said she has received food from the Valley Food Bank a total of three times—only when money gets reallytight, she tells her kids. “If I don’t need it, I don’t go. Other people need it.” That is what the Valley Food Bank is there for—to help people who are unable to make ends meet in the face of life emergencies. They may have lost a job, be battling illness, had an accident, living on a fixed income, dealing with the death of a loved one or facing other challenges. The coronavirus has intensified and compounded these challenges so that the Valley Food Bank is seeing a 100-percent increase in need.
Back in her yard, Eneida sat with her son Emilio, 10, and daughter Naya, 6. A rooster and a few chickens occasionally strutted by. She said peacocks from the property next door sometimes pay a visit. The children are animated and talkative. Emilio, who is in fourth grade, likes science. He misses school. Naya, a kindergartner, likes math. But the eldest, daughter Maya, 15, won’t come out of the house. She is still embarrassed by the fact that her family needed food, Eneida said.
Eneida and her three children sleep in one large room of their family home, which is shared by her mother and her brother. The home was left to them by her father. The extended family’s main bills are utilities, taxes, the car— and food. Eneida’s mom is on Social Security. Her brother is on disability. They get by. Sometimes, Eneida and the kids collect cans to recycle and earn money. Eneida has diabetes and high blood pressure. She hopes she does not get the coronavirus. She knows a lot of people are afraid. All they can do is live day by day and try to stay positive, Eneida said. Sometimes they live by a thread. It has been awhile since she had a job, but she will not give up. “When they call me, I’m there.”