Many single mothers encounter hardship when they lose financial support through separation or divorce. The majority are in low-paying jobs and cannot afford the high cost of renting an apartment in South County along with child-care expenses.
When Beth Powell, 20, got divorced and left El Paso with her 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Reagan, for Mission Viejo, the culture shock was immediate: A two-bedroom apartment that cost $350 per month in El Paso was $800 in South County. A baby-sitter cost $400 a month, compared to $200 in El Paso.
"It was absolutely incredible," said Powell, who earns $1,000 a month as an assistant manager of a Laguna Hills clothing store. "I'm still in shock. I thought about moving back to El Paso, because there's no way I could make it on my own here."
Powell said she needs to acquire a college education to earn a better salary. She had signed up for classes at Saddleback College, but her work schedule and time spent caring for Reagan prevented her from attending.
Now she sees hope in the opportunity offered by Single Mothers.
"I'm hoping I can find someone compatible with myself and my daughter," Powell said. "I think someone with another child would be more flexible, more understanding."
Despite all her problems, Ellis--who lives in her car in Mission Viejo--believes she has been fortunate since separating from her drug-addicted boyfriend a few months ago. She said she decided to leave her boyfriend's apartment after he became physically and verbally abusive to her and her child.
Now she uses the $400 she earns monthly to take care of herself and baby Ryan. "If I had to go to a normal job, I would have to get someone to see my baby," she said. "But I couldn't afford that."
* SHELTERS SWAMPED
Many homeless people are being turned away as the demand for beds soars. B12