Norma’s route to Rosie’s Place took her from early days at the Orchard Park development in Roxbury to California and many points in between. She returned to Boston to live with her Latina grandmother at age 15, but constant clashes prompted her to set out on her own. “I was never shown limits and had to make my own mistakes,” she admits. The lack of structure in her life led to drug use, dropping out of school and unhealthy relationships. “My mother was involved with many abusive men and I didn’t know that it wasn’t ok,” she says.
Pregnant at age 19 with a violent husband, she struggled to raise four children through her 20’s. In 2003, her problems escalated as she was about to have her fifth child, Jesus. With her children already removed from the home by what was then the Department of Social Services, she and her husband gave the newborn to his parents and were then arrested in connection to the child’s unexplained disappearance. Her husband was deported, and she was sent to jail, not knowing that she was again pregnant. She stayed with her in-laws for a while, but by the time she had her daughter, Perla, she had nowhere to go. She found her way to Rosie’s Place with both infants, needing “clothes, a meal, just about everything,” she says.
“They showed me, tough love,” she says about her early days here. “They showed me that they cared about my kids. They gave me love that my mother never showed me.” Evelyn Gonzalez, at that time an Advocate, helped out with clothing, a stroller for the babies. Norma was able to take showers and do her laundry. Staff pitched in to provide babysitting. A turning point for Norma came when Rosie’s Place secured a place for her and her children in the Latinas and Ninos Residential Treatment Program at Casa Esperanza in Roxbury for women recovering from addiction. From there, she has been able to rebuild her life, maintaining an apartment, working when she can, and raising her babies, now ages 8 and 9, even in the face of very limited resources and illness. Says Norma, “Rosie’s Place will always be my family, no matter what. If it wasn’t for them, I would not be clean. I wouldn’t have my kids. I would not be the person I am today.”