When Houston native Kenia Madrigal lost her job and home after being laid off during the pandemic, she didn’t know what to do, other than move her family into her car. Then, a woman stepped in and started a movement to save them all – and then some!

As everyone across the world knows by now, the COVID-19 pandemic, especially at its beginning, caused chaos for businesses, especially the people at the heart of running them.

Like many folks, 29-year-old Kenia Madrigal suddenly found herself laid off, which is a terrifying prospect for anyone, but particularly for this mother of four children. There was light at the end of her journey, and it came from an unpredictable source, but as Madrigal’s story proves, things often get darkest before the dawn.

And she went through so much darkness…

How a Mother of 4 Survived COVID Eviction (and Other Terrors)

Young mother Kenia Madrigal wearing a covid mask and standing with 3 young children

Denied unemployment benefits and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and unable to pay rent, Madrigal faced her most trying situation yet: she and her children were evicted from their Houston home and had no choice but to move into their car.

“I take the car seats out,” Madrigal explained to ABC News. “I put the seats down, and two go all the way back. So me and my oldest are here while the youngest are in the back.”

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Despite the overwhelming emotional stress and physical exhaustion, Madrigal kept on a brave face for her children, who were facing another obstacle. The two oldest had to stop attending school. During lockdowns, school was online, and the family didn’t have access to internet in their car.

But Madrigal didn’t give up. She couldn’t. She was determined to provide a warm, stable home for her children. She relentlessly continued her job search in the very difficult Covid-era job market until she finally found a new job. She took what she could get; unfortunately, the $11.50 an hour she was earning wasn’t enough to pay rent on an apartment. The family was still living in their car.

That’s when Madrigal’s coworker, Chelsea Monroe, stepped in to help. And that’s when everything began to change.

The Woman Who Saved a Young Family Beat Homelessness

Monroe describes Madrigal as “hardworking, optimistic and brave”. She couldn’t believe that this woman and her family were living in a car. So, Monroe went online and started a crowdfunding campaign for the young family of five on the popular GoFundMe site.

The response was immediate — and unexpected. Monroe set the initial goal for the campaign at $800, hoping to help Madrigal have the money to secure a lease. But in less than a day, over $50,000 was raised. That amount would quickly reach over $74,000.

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The story of the young family living in their car touched many people’s hearts. Comments from the GoFund Me page read:

“Sharing God’s Love, ❤ All the way from Brooklyn, New York”

“I used to be a child with a single mother and 4 siblings. I want to help her children.”

“I have a 2year old and cannot imagine being homeless with him. I pray you find a nice little home for your family.”

Still others called attention to a bigger problem, with one commenter writing, “It’s heartbreaking to see that families are not taken care of in the world’s largest economy. Landlords also need to develop some humanity and compassion. Renters have been paying for the livelihood of the landlords for years and when they see a little drop in profits, they kick families out to curb.”

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“We need to invest much money into public housing and social services like in Europe,” another wrote, “so people can concentrate on living life. Why isn’t everyone angry that we have to use GoFundMe for basic things like housing and feeding women and children?”

Indeed, GoFundMe even has a dedicated page entitled How to Raise Money for a Family in Need. The very idea shocks many people. Several commenters were outraged by the country’s failed reaction to the pandemic, which left more than one family on the streets.

Madrigal herself — refused by her landlord and her government — couldn’t believe the quick, generous support from strangers. To date, over 2,000 individuals have donated money to get her family out of their car and into a home. 

Where Is the Young Family Who Were Forced to Live on the Street Today?

A young family smiling at the camera in front of a large white obilisk and green field

“I’m still in shock. I still don’t believe it,” Madrigal said. “I can’t believe there’s that many people willing to help me, of all people. I don’t believe I’m somebody for them to want to help.”

But those 2,000 GoFundMe donators are not the only ones to have reached out to help her. People contacted the local news station offering homes and apartments. Kids Meals Inc. offered food, and Northwest Assistance Ministries also stepped forward to offer resources. 

“Thank you, thank you,” Madrigal said, her eyes filled with tears. “I’m so grateful. I’m very blessed.”

Now the mother of four has many more options for her and her family, all because a coworker saw her need and thousands of strangers decided to help.

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“I have to thank my colleague,” Madrigal insisted, “even if I still don’t believe it. How is it possible that so many people have the kindness to help a perfect stranger? I didn’t think that in the world there could be people with such big hearts. But now I know and I am grateful.”

How do we define community? Madrigal would certainly define it as the thousands of complete strangers who heard her cry for help and came to her aid. 

If you want to help Madrigal and her family to get back on their feet again, you can donate to their GoFundMe page.

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