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Nayola family is working thanks to a hand up

Curtis Michaels photo After most of a year living in tents and sleeping on the ground, Jessica and Hilario Nayola are making good use of a hand up, and are building their life together anew.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Larry (Hilario) and Jessica Nayola lost everything in early 2016 when he was incarcerated.

“She entered homelessness before I did,” Nayola said, “It was a hard thing knowing how hard it had to be on her, not only homeless, but homeless in Roswell from April to November of 2016 by herself. That she stayed safe was a miracle.”

Jessica managed to stay safe as she waited for her husband.

There was many a night that she slept at Cahoon Park, he said, “and at the Baseball Park at Cielo Grande. There was many a time she didn’t have food, she didn’t have a way to get anywhere. Some of the biggest help that she got and that later I got came from Pastor Mark Green of Harvest Ministries and Jeneva Martinez.”

After a while, Jessica got a slightly improved situation.

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“Luckily a local citizen tried to be there for her,” Nayola said. “They let her set up a tent in their backyard. Showers were a water hose and a bucket. It was a little better than nothing.”

The day of their reunion arrived.

“I still remember the day I got a ride to that house,” Nayola said. “She didn’t know I was getting out. We cried and we held each other. When I walked into that tent it broke my heart to see how she was living. She kept everything as orderly as possible for living in a tent. That night was the best night’s sleep I ever had, even though it was November and cold.”

Unfortunately, there were problems.

“We stayed there as long as we could,” Nayola said. “The majority of homeless people are so overwhelmed with their circumstances that it’s easy to fall into alcohol and substance abuse just to (distract) themselves from having to deal with the stuff they have to deal with every day.

“That was something that we didn’t do. It took the support of pastors like Mark Green, Lonnie Owens, Chris LaDuca, Larry Lasher, people like Natasha Mackey and Jeneva Martinez. These were people that were a constant support in our life. Whether it was through food or anything else that they could provide. Sometimes just an ear to listen to what you’re going through.”

Upon leaving the tent where Jessica had been for some time, they needed to find a place to live.

“We went to Mark Green in late November,” Nayola said, “and it broke his heart. He cried with us because there was no way he could help us other than to buy us a tent and some sub-zero sleeping bags, and take us down to the river bed.”

Living in the river bed was an all-time low for the Nayola family.

“I remember that was a hard day for us,” he said, “being in that river bed. But I told her that the one thing about being at the bottom is that there’s no where else to go but up. We didn’t know how much we needed Jesus until he was all we had. So we made a decision that we were going to press hard into this. We only stayed in that riverbed for 10 days. All 10 days were hard, it was freezing at that time.

“We used to walk up to the McDonald’s next to the O’Reilly’s to charge our phones. One day we were in there, and we were drinking soda from their water cups, and this man approached me. I was thinking that we’re in trouble so I told her to get the stuff together and be ready to leave. He gave us refills and said he would keep us in his prayers that we would be blessed. It really touched me that he said that because that was all we had, was our prayers. I thanked him.”

That chance meeting was pivotal in their lives.

“He asked me if I was looking for work,” Nayola said. “I told him yes I was. I was looking every day. That’s another thing that’s hard to do from homelessness. A lot of people say you just need to go get a job. When you’re homeless you don’t have access to clean clothes, to a shower, and you need a job. Sometimes you don’t have your legal papers.

“But it was a real blessing because that man ended up being Nick Snowberger. Nick hired me on the spot. He knew I was living in the river bed when he hired me.”

They shortly had a couple of opportunities for better shelter.

“After those 10 days we were able to stay in a camper trailer connected to a bed,” Nayola said. “We continued to get up and go to work, and to reach out to the homeless coalition. It wasn’t long before we were able to save our money and rent a house.”

There were twists and turns ahead for the Nayola family, however.

“We had another baby and we lost our house,” he said. “Because we didn’t have a home, CYFD got involved and took him from us right out of the hospital. That was rough. But it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because it allowed us an opportunity.”

Life is looking up for them.

“We’re doing all the steps and everybody is for us there,” Nayola said. “But, you know, we would have been homeless again if it wasn’t for Mark Green. He was able to inform us about a program to get HUD. Now we have a home once again, and our house just isn’t a house now. It’s a home. I never lost my job. Nic Snowberger understood the circumstances and held my job during the time our baby was in the hospital.”

Having been down this hard road, the Nayola’s are eager to help others.

“Now we have this broad path of opportunities,” he said. “We’d like to help in any way we can because one thing I know is that when you’re homeless, people give up on you and then you give up on yourself. It takes people to say, ‘You know what? We’re not gonna give up on you. We’re gonna build you up instead of tearing you down.’ There is a strong group of people in Roswell who do care.”

They are proactive in reaching out to make a difference.

“We don’t give up on anybody,” Nayola said. “We try to get them jobs. Any time we meet somebody who is down and out we’re quick to direct them to Jeneva and to Mark. We can’t wait for more resources to be available.”

Nayola said he wants to see Roswell’s heart open up to those in need in a more direct and effective manner.

“I guarantee people don’t want to be homeless,” he said. “I just want the community to get involved. There has to be a solution that’s not only going to help people but that will help create smiles. Smiles are rare in this town and we need to change that one smile at a time.”


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