An Azle family of seven displaced because of the pandemic spent more than two months living in a shed without water, heat or electricity before a nonprofit group learned of their plight and stepped up to help them find a new home.
Alma Sepulveda was working as a housekeeper last year when, and one by one, her clients let her go.
"They didn't want me coming in because they were scared, of course, and I understood,” Sepulveda said.
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Even though evictions were put on hold during the pandemic, Sepulveda said her landlord insisted she and her family leave and she didn't know any lawyers to contact.
Kicked out and with no way to make money, she ended up living in a shed along with six family members, including her grandchildren, ages 11, 14 and 18.
"It (the shed) had no electricity, no water, no gas, nothing. No toilets. Nothing,” Sepulveda said. "It was hectic. It was heartbreaking.”
The granddaughter, Madison Lechuga, said the family’s life became difficult.
"Everything just crumbled,” Lechuga said. "Like you could see your breath literally, like, and it wasn't a light breath, you could literally see your breath in the air."
They bathed in a gas station restroom.
“We're like, ‘We're going to RaceTrac, pack up what you need,’” Sepulveda said. “And everybody packed up their little bag of toothpaste and toothbrushes and towels and we washed up there."
The entire family lived in the shed, and another one nearby, for more than two months, sleeping on the floor and using blankets to try to stay warm.
Sepulveda was afraid to ask anyone for help.
"I wanted the pride, my pride, I wanted to do it on my own,” she said.
Then one day, Madison reached out at school to Kim Sikes, a worker for the national nonprofit group Communities In Schools.
"She just came in one day,” Sikes said. “She was just crying, explaining to me like, 'I don't know what we're supposed to do.'"
"I was telling her how we don't have any electricity or anything," said Madison.
Within a day, Sikes found an anonymous donor who put the family up in a hotel, and found them a new home of their own.
That was one week before the massive ice storm crippled Texas last month.
"I'd like to thank her a lot and the donor a lot,” Lechuga said. “The help is just everything.”
Sikes said she was humbled to be able to help.
"I'm thankful that I'm put in this position to be able to help people like them," she said.
Sepulveda's housecleaning business is bouncing back now, and her brother and grandson are finding work too, improving the family’s financial position.
Their future is much brighter now, they said.
"I think we can make it from here on,” Sepulveda said. "Happy happy ending.”