St. Vincent de Paul Village
“When I look back I realize we were on our way to that situation years ago,” Katina reflects. As we sit together in her cozy one bedroom apartment, her two girls play games in the kitchen so we can talk. Katina tells me that her ex-husband was a dreamer, always looking for the next business deal or investment that was going to make them rich. “We weren’t spending properly or saving,” Katina says. While her husband wasn’t interested in holding down a full-time job, college-educated Katina always had good work that kept them afloat. In 1999 when she was diagnosed with Lupis, all of that changed.
Without health insurance, Katina found herself racking up credit card bills to pay for emergency room visits, her only form of care. Katina and her husband were both from North Carolina. When her husband excitedly informed the family of a business opportunity in California, Katina felt she had little choice but to pack up their two young girls and follow him out west. Soon after arriving it became clear that there was not going to be any business deal. Without money, or any friends or family, Katina found herself living in dangerous motels and unfinished construction sites while she hunted for food to feed her children and clothing to keep them warm.
Katina knew things needed to change. “I prayed a lot,” Katina tells me. Finally, she had enough of her husband’s empty promises and decided to take her family’s future into her own hands. Katina took out LSAT books from the library and began studying for law school from a shelter at the Cortez Hill YWCA.
Soon, she was admitted to California Western School of Law and into the long term family program at St. Vincent’s. Katina finally had the support of a case worker who saw her husband’s manipulative behavior, and soon, Katina and her husband separated for good. “I had to take an inventory of all I had lost in the past 10 years,” Katina remembers.
Because of the mandatory savings program at St. Vincent, Katina was soon able to move into her own Golden Hill apartment. “I wrote a letter to the landlord saying ‘please, just give me a chance. I know my credit is terrible. I have no rental history. But I can do this,” Katina remembers.
Now in her third year of law school, Katina knows exactly what she wants to practice—family law. “I know what it’s like to not have a voice. I want to help other families avoid that same fate.”