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No place to sleep: From eviction to shelter

Alissa Groeninger/CU-CitizenAccess "” Valentino Plaza was born in Champaign but left when he was eight years old.  His father was in the military and stationed in the county, but was soon out of his life. 

Plaza and his mother moved back to Champaign a few years ago and were staying with her 96-year-old mother. 

"My old neighborhood looks smaller," Plaza said.

Unfortunately, Plaza's grandma didn't pay her taxes. After she died, Plaza and his mother were evicted.

While he has family here, he doesn't see them.

"They're right here and look where we are.  They're not offering to help us," he said. "It's us again."


Plaza and his mother are also staying Restoration Urban Ministries.  His mom is 73 years old, has emphysema and uses an oxygen tank. 

"I can't have my mom on the street," Plaza said.  "It's a roof over your head.  It's just a place to be."

Plaza's mom receives disability money but the price of medicine has skyrocketed, making it tough to buy.  She worked for 31 years, doing in-home care before her health started deteriorating. 

"She's not getting any younger," he said, adding that he just wants to "make her comfortable."

Plaza himself doesn't have insurance and said he needs knee surgery but has bills piled up just from X-rays.  On his neck is visible scarring from a horse bite, which he sustained while working on a ranch in California.

It's hard because his mom has always had her own home and Plaza feels like he is supposed to be taking care of her.

Plaza said he and his son, also named Valentino, were best friends until Plaza lost custody.  Plaza noted that his son turned 21 on August 5. 

"We did everything together," Plaza said.

Plaza wants to find his son but says he doesn't know where he is.

"He doesn't know the situation I'm in right now and I don't want him to know," Plaza said.

He added that he wants to go back to California, where he lived for a long time, and get a job.  Plaza worked at Cardinal Fitness in Champaign and worked with horses in California.  He attended Santa Barbara City College.

"I'm too old to work for the temp service," Plaza said about his desire for a permanent job.  But "there's no jobs anywhere." 

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