Annette Melendrez was born and raised in Watsonville. She is a proud mother of five, devoted wife, involved community member and homeowner. She is also the director of programs for Pajaro Valley Shelter Services (PVSS), the very same organization she turned to for help when she and her family were experiencing homelessness.
“I don't know where I would be if I didn’t have that support,” Annette said. “I am so thankful to PVSS because I never had a strong foundation. We were given new hope, a new life, a new direction.”
Annette recalls her childhood living situation as “unstructured,” with both parents struggling with addiction, leaving her and her brother living separately and moving from hotel to hotel and family member to family member. As a teen, Annette found herself repeating the cycle of drug addiction.
Annette had her first child with a man who also had addiction issues as well as gang affiliations. The couple had a second child and lived with his parents for a time, until he was incarcerated. Sitting on the Pajaro levee one night, she remembers reflecting that all her life would ever be was drugs, gangs and homelessness. Then Annette landed in jail, too. She had hit rock bottom.
While incarcerated, Annette felt that she was repeating the cycle, abandoning her children just as she was abandoned by her parents. She vowed to turn her life around. At 21, she vowed to stay clean and entered into a rehabilitation program, successfully completing an 18-month sobriety program and reuniting with her children.
Looking for housing, she saw a newspaper ad for vacancies in PVSS’s transitional housing program. She applied and her family was accepted.
Annette was assigned a case manager who assisted with support, including goal-setting for her and her family. She learned financial literacy, budgeting and how to save money—important skills she hadn’t learned before. In addition, she received parenting and nutrition classes.
With the help of PVSS, Annette and her family went on to find permanent housing and eventually purchased their own home in Watsonville. Annette was offered employment at PVSS and today is the Director of Programs.
"The struggle doesn’t end. It is so important to have your basic needs met so you can move forward with healing inside. The key to all of this is that I was given the tools. It was up to me to continually use them and seek the tools as challenges come up, I'm so thankful and honored to give back what I received."