My name is Hilda Lopez, and I am from Puerto Rico, but I prefer to say Chicago. I grew up in Puerto Rico with my mom until I was in fourth grade. My mom wanted me to have better schooling and a better future than Puerto Rico could provide, so we moved to Chicago, IL and it forever changed our lives.
I have had a rough life. When I turned 13, my mother made me get a job to help support rent and food costs. Since it was just us in a large city, we had a lot of expenses. After school, I would work for a local trucking business keeping track of admin needs. My mother ended up getting married and my stepfather didn’t like me. When I was 14, my mother made me move out. I was homeless with no family or friends in the city to turn to for help. I got addicted to drugs and slept on the streets for many nights. It was rough for a while until I met Ricky; he believed in me. We married at the age of 18 and I continued to work in Chicago for the next 40 years as a bus driver. Everything was beautiful. We raised three children together and I felt like I was the happiest girl in the world.
In 2009, we moved from Chicago to Michigan to take care of Ricky’s mother who was ill. We moved in with her and soon Ricky got sick too. The doctors found something in his liver and told us he only had 6-8 months to live. We wanted to live on our own, but our medical bills were so high, we couldn’t afford rent. Ricky couldn’t work with his condition and my full-time job became taking care of him. In 2014, Ricky passed away.
My whole world was crushed. My husband was gone. Now with both Ricky and my mother-in-law gone, my home was gone, too, and I didn’t know what to do. I was able to find a new apartment at Volunteers of America Michigan, but shortly after unpacking, I realized I wasn’t feeling well myself and went to the doctor. They found traces of cancer from a mammogram and biopsy, and I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. I was in chemo until 2019, and I am thankful I had my chemo treatments, but between medical bills and rent I was overwhelmed. I had to make the decision to either afford medical bills to live or pay my rent to have a roof over my head. That is when VOAMI stepped in to help, they told me about a grant that could help cover my rent.
I can now afford rent, medical bills, and I have a strong community around me. It was so hard to find affordable housing, and I wanted to be independent. For so long I felt alone, but now I feel happy. I have never lived in a community like this. I love to live here. This building is kind, clean and so nice. Everything feels together and I am at such peace. Today I am on the road to recovery and looking forward to a healthy future. I know Ricky would be so proud of me.