Founder Desiree Martinez’s Story
…and why We Are Not Invisible was founded.
Hello, I am Desiree. On July 11, 2016, I moved into a permanent place I could finally call home. Prior to that I was homeless. I went from my car to a shelter back to my car and was also allowed to stay at friends from time to time. This went on for a year and half. I was not on alcohol or drugs. My homelessness happened due to the lack of funds I receive from SSD (disability). I was put on SSD in 2010 when my spinal cord was severed and I had a spinal fusion.
I had been very depressed and had suicidal thoughts. I found an organization (media school) in my city that allowed me to be there from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. everyday.
This was my safe haven and I was able to keep my mind off my life out there and focus on positive things. While at the media school, I learned how to edit, film, and create shows. I began to use the school and what I learned to get by making shows or interviews for the Fresno community. I also started Fresno Eatz, a food show, in order to get free food. This helped me, so I wanted to help others out there and use the tools to raise awareness and help end hunger in our community.
While being homeless, I found that many churches and organizations did not help. I found myself calling everyday for shelter and food. The only answer I would get was “We do not have any funding available right now, I can give you another number you can try.” Local food banks were so far from each other that I never have bus fare to go get food. I am on SSDI and in California we do not receive any type of food allowance such as SNAP. It was very depressing, not only not having a permanent place, but also not having any food to eat.
When I finally got into a room I could barely afford ( my rent is 95% of my check), I continued to go out and raise awareness on the lack of funding and help we have in the field for our forgotten part of the community. I used the skills I learned at the media school and social media to reach out to the community and get more people involved with our less fortunate.
I started to hand out water because that was all I could afford ($2.50 case) and the lack of access to water throughout our community streets was an urgent necessity. That is now a yearly project called Project H2O.
During my time out everyday, I found more and more items needed in order to just survive everyday out in the streets, We started a hygiene drive, coat drive, and blanket drive. This has now turned into Project Share The Warmth, which runs through our cold winter months.
On April 9, 2017, I completed 365 days, every day, in the field with the street families. I would go out everyday, regardless of weather, to hand out water, food, hygiene kits or just go out to communicate and just hang out with our less fortunate.
It’s not always about the food. It’s about communication and rehumanizing our chronically homeless and helping our less fortunate.
Please take a moment and view our short documentary on We are not Invisible.
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