Arms folded, his chair jammed against the wall, Joe Maestas glowered at the men who could help his family out of homelessness. His wife, Christina, sat at his side, pale and tense.
This meeting was their best chance to escape the filthy motel where they and their four children had lived for two years. A novel city program had offered them $1,200 to move into a decent rental.
But the money came with a catch: For six months, Joe and Christina would have to open their lives to two men assigned to coach the family out of poverty.
The Maestas children warmed to the mentors at once as they all gathered in the break room of Christina’s workplace in mid-March. Corie, 9, drew them a smiling kitty. Domonic, 13, shyly asked for help with his literature homework.
Their father tugged his worn baseball cap down low, so his eyes were nearly hidden. Joe didn’t like anyone presuming to help his family, no matter how good their intentions. “They tell you how to live,” he said.