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Failed American dreams that end up in homelessness

Laura Sánchez Ley | El Universal
11:37Sunday 18 January 2015

At Guadalupe Homeless Project undocumented immigrants are welcome . (Photo: DAVID MAUNG / EL UNIVERSAL )

Raquel Román, director of the Guadalupe Homeless Project in Los Angeles, said that in 2008, when the recession began, people coming to shelters started to change.

Ramón Castro is an electrical engineer that arrived in Los Angeles on July 4, 2002 on the recommendation of some friends from his native Culiacán, Sinaloa. They told him that there was a lot of work in remodeling homes in the United States. 

In the beginning he lived in a small room with no inside bathroom that he shared with seven friends because they could not afford to pay the rent (1,500 dollars a month) on their own. 

After he started working and making money he met Patricia, whom he married and with whom he had a child. The family settled in Corona, where they lived in a small apartment until December 19, 2013, when the Immigration Department came to his house to arrest him. 

Even though he was deported from Tijuana, he still hoped that he would return to the U.S. and get his job back. Unfortunately his wife died on December 26 of a heart attack. He managed to cross back to the U.S. for his wife's funeral, but the government took custody of his son, who was eventually was handed over to his sister in law because Ramón was not a legal resident. 

Ramón ended up living in the streets after a machine to unclog drains almost cut his arm off and his employer, a Mexican from Guadalajara, refused to provide him medical assistance. 

"I held and held until one day I could not get up; then I thought that my health, my life and my son were more important" than his job. 

Ramón decided to talk to a lawyer so his boss fired him. After years of work he received no compensation, and he did not even have a house to stay at because he lived in the houses that he remodeled. 

"I can not stay with my in-laws because the government gave them a small apartment with enough room only for the two of them, and I can not live with my sister in law either because she kept my son, so if the Social Security finds out that someone other than her and the boy lives with them, they could take Ramón Jr. away, so I did not want to put them in risk."

So Ramón slept in a truck, in the subway and even under the bridges until April 2, 2014, when a former coworker took him to a Guadalupe shelter, east of Los Angeles. 

"Now I realize that I never lived the American dream, they all come here thinking that they will... I lived very happy in my country," Ramón said. He added that the only reason for which he stays in the U.S. is his son. 

Betrayed immigrants 

Raquel Román is the director of the Guadalupe Homeless Project, an initiative created to help homeless immigrants. She explained that in 2008, when the recession began, people coming to shelters started to change. 

"They were people who had a job and even a house or an apartment, but no documents to live legally in the United States. The other hostels did not want to receive them because they had no documents," she explained. 

According to information from the U.S. Department of Labor more than 34,000 construction jobs and 24,000 manufacturing jobs were lost on that year. Economic analysts agree that the most affected sector was construction. 

Also, the Bank of Mexico reported that in 2008, 21% of immigrants living in the United States worked in construction and 14% in manufacturing. 

"Many of them have became homeless and destitute and have not been able to turn their fate around," Raquel explained.

Many Mexicans who became homeless feel betrayed. 

Jorge, originally from Michoacán, came to America 28 years ago. Now he uses a community bathroom for homeless people in Los Angeles. 

He used to be a carpenter but he lost his job during the housing crisis. When he was making money he used to send most of his income to his family, but now that he needs help, everyone has turned their back on him. 

"The American dream is over, it's all over. Here there is no future. I ended up being homeless, just like many others." For three decades "I gave everything for them and they betrayed me," he said referring to his family.