Family under one roof thanks to Salvation Army’s Ring in a Miracle campaign

"It was a blessing in disguise," said Salvation Army client.

Sandra Castillo (KXAN Photo)
Sandra Castillo and her daughters (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Christmas tree is trimmed in Sandra Castillo’s Austin apartment. This holiday she will celebrate one year of having permanent housing thanks to the Salvation Army’s Ring in a Miracle campaign, which started this week.

Castillo said last year she and her two girls, six-year-old Aiiyana and three-year-old Lena, were homeless, living with her ex-boyfriend’s parents in Killeen. She said it was tough living under someone else’s rules.

So, Castillo considered committing a crime to get permanent housing.

“No matter what I did, it was never good enough,” she said. “I didn’t know what else to do. I was thinking about going to sell my body.”

She said a call from the Salvation Army in Austin came before she followed through on the idea. The person on the other end of the call offered free temporary housing and Castillo said she quickly accepted it.

“I jumped on the opportunity,” she said. “I was so grateful because I was literally at my wit’s end.”

Castillo and her girls moved from Killeen to Austin. When they arrived at the women and children’s shelter, a caseworker helped her find a job. Her youngest daughter got a spot in the free day care program and she enrolled her other daughter in a school nearby.

“Everything was falling into place,” Castillo said of the additional services.

Then she was approved for low-income housing and started calling local apartment complexes. A few months later, she found the two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit in Austin where she lives now.

“I’m about to be a shift leader [at work],” Castillo said. “And I’m about to get a car in the next few months; and hopefully, I’ll be able to save up and get a house,” she said.

The support Castillo received was funded, in part, by the Salvation Army’s Ring in a Miracle campaign, which launched this week at H-E-B grocery stores. It is easy to donate and all of the money donated stays in Austin, said the Salvation Army’s Deputy Development Director Jan Gunter.

“As you’re going through the checkout at H-E-B, you just tear off a $1, $3 or $5 donation slop and add it to your grocery bill,” said Gunter.

The Salvation Army said it’s seeing more family homelessness as nearly 75 percent of the residents in the charity’s shelters are women and children.

“There’s a growing crisis of family homelessness in our community,” Gunter said. “In the shadow of our prosperity are folks that have been shut out of that prosperity; and, are struggling.”

Castillo said this Christmas will also be a celebration of their one-year permanent housing anniversary.

“I’m very, very grateful and blessed that I got the call when I did. It was a blessing in disguise,” she said.

KXAN is a proud sponsor of the Salvation Army’s Ring in a Miracle campaign.

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