Second Chances to Make a Difference

When Sonia Rodriguez was a client at a mental health agency, she never thought her path would lead to helping other individuals with similar experiences. Having been involved in a domestic violence relationship for seven years, Sonia understood what it was like to have post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. Now a peer partner at El Centro de Amistad, Sonia helps other individuals who have experienced traumas find employment and improve their daily functioning. As a peer partner since 2013, Sonia has experienced similar circumstances that have lead individuals to participate in El Centro de Amistad’s CalWORKS program and Field Client Capable Services, which helps to empower clients in their daily life skills. Over the course of a year, Sonia works with about 15 individuals in helping them succeed in their treatment plans. “I help clients with whatever their therapist is working on or employment specialist is having them work on,” said Sonia, who works with clients by accompanying them on a walk, organizing, budgeting, helping them apply to jobs online, finding referrals and serving as resource. “I share my experience and what I went through to let them know that I was like them.” When they find out Sonia has been homeless, had her children removed from her custody, attended parenting classes, participated in CalWORKS, and received cash aid, clients are more inclined “to be open and comfortable with me if they need to share things.” She recalls a single woman living with her parents who announced they were moving out of state. Her client had a job and attended school in San Fernando Valley yet no place to live. “I was doing everything in my power to find low-income housing,” said Sonia, who was able to get her client moved in to her apartment within a month after numerous phone calls, online searches, housing applications and face-to-face meetings with property managers. “I felt proud knowing I accomplished something really big.” During the holiday season, Sonia reaches out to businesses, churches and organizations, requesting toys and gifts for the clients. West Valley Christian Church in West Hills adopted six of El Centro de Amistad’s client families and donated everything on their list. Shepherd of the Hills in Porter Ranch donated toward holiday gifts for children too. With Sonia’s resourcefulness and tenacity, more than 45 clients and their children received gifts during the holiday. For Sonia, this isn’t just a job, it’s her way to give back what she has been given: a second chance. “Whether it’s anxiety or depression, I like to see clients know they can get over the things they are going through and do things on their own.”