Daily Courier

“There is Hope”

January 2, 2016

Four months ago, Les Lee and his three children were on the streets living out of his car and showering at the YMCA.

“The kids never really complained, but I know they didn’t like it,” Lee said this past week from a Prescott apartment; one of his daughters said the experience was OK, rather like camping.

They had been living in a trailer park with bugs and rats with windows falling out and no heat. Lee couldn’t always pay the rent after he and the children’s mother split.

“The owner did what he had to do,” he said, and the family found themselves evicted with nowhere to live but their car.

After a couple of weeks, St. Vincent de Paul stepped in and moved the family to a motel room for a week, but as the days counted down, Lee once again grew desperate trying to hold his family together.

“Other organizations are for women and children; there aren’t many for a father and kids. They look at you different – I have two teenage girls,” he said.

Then Agape House, a faith-based nonprofit organization, selected the family and put them up in an apartment for three months. A mentor meets weekly with family members, helping create a budget, and setting and reaching goals.

“God is the one who kept us all together,” Lee is quick to say.

He and the children – Richard, 11, Jobie, 12 and Patience, 13 – regularly attend church, and the kids are doing well in Prescott Unified School District schools. They are glad the family did not have to move to Phoenix where family shelters are more plentiful.

“We didn’t want to leave our church,” Richard said.

“I didn’t want to leave in the middle of the school year. I made a lot of friends,” Patience said.

During transitions in living conditions, children do better if they are able to stay in their home school with classmates and maintain regular attendance. All three are taking music lessons – Richard plays the cello in school, and two weeks ago Lee’s sister gave the girls music lessons, Jobie on the violin and Patience on the electric guitar. They also spend time at the library doing homework and using the computers.

When the children’s mother was around, they were able to pay the rent, Lee said. He worked at a secondhand store until he hurt his back, which required surgery. He is feeling better and looking for a part-time job.

He volunteers at the YMCA, the Disabled American Veterans Trift Store, and the Coalition for Compassion and Justice (CCJ) Thrift Store. Lee insists his children give back to the community. They help feed the homeless at their church, and worked with CCJ in July with the Fair Start back-to-school backpack program.

The family plans to spend the next two years saving up for their own place, or maybe they will stay in the apartment. They all have goals for the future. Jobie wants to attend veterinary school. Patience would like to enter the military and become the first U.S. female sniper – she’s good with the Nerf gun, Lee said with a laugh. Richard wants to ride motocross, and said he, too, may join the military and build tanks, as he is good creating with his Legos.

When asked about sharing their experience with readers, Jobie said she wants people to know there is hope.

“They can crash at our place for a couple of days,” she offered.

“And I would tell them about Agape House,” Richard said.

For more information about Agape House of Prescott, call 928-910-1089 or visit agapehouseprescott.org.