VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - Enlly Gutierrez knows about hard times. The single mother of three is a client at Solutions for Change, a Vista organization aimed at helping homeless families.
Gutierrez is one of many turning their lives around through the program, which takes 1,000 days. Gutierrez is more than halfway complete and making great strides.
Her family's story started in 2017. It is a story Gutierrez doesn't mind sharing but still has an emotional time reliving.
Gutierrez and her family were homeless in the streets of Escondido. They would spend their days and nights at the hotels and restaurants along Mission Boulevard near Centre City Parkway. They weren't just homeless; Gutierrez was also battling drug addiction.
"We would be walking to (Jack in the Box) or anywhere in these streets," she recalled. "We'd be walking with them on one stroller, and I had three of them, late at night, when it was cold. And I was just trying to get to a place to put them to sleep."
"We had hotels, when I had my kids, we slept in Mount Vernon a lot," she added. "It was really hard. I'd have my sister, me, her kids, and my kids. We didn't care about the conditions we had them in. We had people in and out of the rooms. We only cared about getting high. It was just a lot of chaos."
Two months of living homeless and using drugs caused her to lose her kids.
"CPS decided I wasn't a fit parent because I was putting them in dangerous situations," Gutierrez said. "That was really hard. When I got them taken away, I ended up alone. I ended up walking the streets at three in the morning, not having where to sleep. I stayed behind the dumpsters behind Denny's and laid in my head and my backpack. And I just fell asleep, and I got so tired. That's when I knew I hit rock bottom."
It was at that point, Gutierrez decided she needed change. It started with her kicking addiction at the Family Recovery Center.
"That part was really hard for me because I've never been through treatment," she said. "But I looked It up online, and I was like, 'I'm just going to give it a shot; if I really want my kids back, if I really want my life back I have to start somewhere."
It took her five months to get clean. But it wasn't enough to get her family back.
"I spoke to CPS, and they're like, 'Look, Enlly, either you go out here and do the same thing, you're not going to get your kids back, or you decide to go to a program."
That's how she ended up at Solutions for Change. The program requires its clients to be clean and creates an environment of structure and accountability through classes, work training, and support. But ultimately, staff members say success depends on the determination and readiness of the individual.
Gutierrez was ready. She was determined to get her kids back. And she did.
"They start seeing that she's going to work. She's showing up. She's not giving up," Gutierrez recalled. "That's when they're like, okay, Enlly is responsible. She's showing she wants her kids back, and I started getting reunification."
Enlly has been reunited with her kids. She's also maintained several jobs. She currently works as a sales representative for Cricket Wireless, allowing her to pay for rent and provide for her family.
"So now that we have a home, I'm able to be a mom, cook for them, provide for them. It's all worth it," Gutierrez said. "Just hearing them call me mom and feeling that love, and knowing that I'm needed, it's amazing."