Last week, members of the Petaluma Parents Network, came across an email from a fellow parent in trouble:
"I am a single mom of 4. 2 boys ages 7 & 3. 2 girls ages 6 & 4 months. As of today we don't have a home" the email read.
As a mother of four myself, I just couldn’t imagine what this mother, Amanda Mertens, was going through.
Just two years ago, Amanda, 33, lost her husband tragically to an aortic aneurism. At the time of his death, Amanda's family was just making ends meet. Now because of ongoing renovations at Greenbriar Apartments, Amanda and her children have been displaced and are without a home for the holidays.
(Amanda is one of more than 200 families who have had to move or will soon move because of the improvements. Many won't be able to return due to increased rent.)
“I honestly felt compelled to help Amanda because I simply couldn't read her post without acting upon it. I read it once, I read it twice and I was compelled to act!” said Eleni Scanagatta, a local mom of two and member of the Petaluma Parents Network.
Eleni, helped organize what she called, “Amanda’s Angels”, people who have come forward to offer assistance for Amanda and her children. Petalumans, primarily from the Petaluma Parents Network, have offered Christmas gifts, a Christmas tree, clothing, a microwave, food gift cards, and new tires for her family’s van.
There have also been many random acts of kindness from the community. The Petaluma Baptist Church requested that Amanda be a guest of honor at their annual Gingerbread Workshop and offered to help provide Christmas gifts for the children as to ensure their Christmas experience is not altered in any way.
Other residents have reached out to provide Christmas gifts for the children, a Christmas tree, decorations and food.
Amanda has been a Sonoma County resident all of her life. She attended Kenilworth Jr. High and Casa Grande for periods of time until she eventually graduated from high school in Sonoma. Her husband was a HVAC installer before he was laid off two-years before his death. She has been a stay-at-home mom to care for her kids, a couple of who have special needs. In addition to caring for her children, Amanda also volunteers in the community through LadyBug Connections, a local non-profit that supports families in need.
“It’s hard. But I keep looking. At night when they are asleep, I’m on all the websites looking for housing for our family,” said Amanda, adding that she feels discrimated against from landlords because she has four children. “They see me and my kids and it’s like they think we are going to trash the place.”
“But my kids are really great kids, they are respectful, we just want a home for Christmas and so we can move on with our lives.”
While the outpouring of support has been immense, Amanda is still desperately looking for affordable housing (Her budget allows for $1,200 a month.) She doesn't want to move because she wants to keep her kids local so they can remain in their school, close to their activities, friends and bereavement group.
If you have any housing leads, please contact Eleni Scanagatta at 707-953-0353. To donate money to the family, click here.