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Rosie’s Story

After 17 years of hard work by Western Center advocates, California has repealed the state law which banned food and basic needs assistance to people who had a prior drug-felony conviction.


Rosie was born in Southern California to an abusive father and a mother with severe mental illness. She was given narcotics as a young child by a relative charged with caring for her, but instead robbed her of her innocence. He was later arrested for the child pornography photos he took of Rosie. By the time she was 12, Rosie was on the streets, on her way to a life of crime and addiction. With no adult to care for her, Rosie was in and out of the juvenile justice system, never receiving the mental health care she desperately needed.

For several years, Rosie waded in and out of police custody and abusive relationships. She couldn’t raise her first two children and asked her sister to raise them. It was after the birth of her third son that something changed for Rosie. “One day, I saw my son look at me after my boyfriend beat me up and I could see the spirit leaving from his eyes,” said Rosie. She reached out to our transitional housing partner, Starting Over, Inc., and has been sober since.

Still, even though complying with her probation and a commitment to sobriety, Rosie couldn’t make it out of poverty. Because California employed the optional ban for people with a prior drug-related felony conviction, she was denied basic needs assistance, job training, and child care. Her and her son have lived off of $300 in cash assistance and anything extra she can pick up with odd jobs.

After decades of hard work by Western Center advocates, California has repealed the state law which banned food and basic needs assistance to people who had a prior drug-felony conviction. Approximately six thousand families will now experience hunger less often and will be supported in work training thanks to heartfelt testimonies like Rosie’s in the State Legislature that lead to the overturn of the backward law. Today, Rosie holds her head high. She knows that things will get better, not only for her, but for others.