After almost 40 years of marriage, Cristina and Federico Lim were having their Thanksgiving meal with turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.
“We’ve never had this food before,” said Mrs. Lim with a smile.
The couple had been residing at Rescue Mission for the past eight months. Before they lost their home a year ago, Mrs. Lim loved to cook fusion dishes that blended the two cultures that is part of her identity.
In addition to ham and pies, Filipino American feasts typically include lumpia, pancit, flan, kare-kare and a whole roasted pig. Wednesday afternoon at Rescue Mission, the Lims and their dorm mates were getting the whole American Thanksgiving meal: turkey, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, bread, and pie.
The Lims moved to Santa Barbara from Long Beach 26 years ago. Mrs. Lim had found a job as a caregiver in the region, and the couple lived with Mrs. Lim’s aunt Josefa. Josefa, however, was battling polycystic kidney disease. A year ago, she passed away.
“They couldn’t wake her up from the dialysis,” said Mrs. Lim.
Josefa’s stepchildren decided to sell the house the Lims lived in for 25 years, and they gave the couple 60 days to look for another housing. The Lims could not find a place within their budget, however, and they began to sleep on the streets and became homeless for the first time in their lives. During this period, Mrs. Lim had to hide each time before relieving herself if there were no bathroom around. One of these times, Mrs. Lim fell while hiding and hurt her knee.
After four months of sleeping in the State and Chapala streets area, the couple found out about Rescue Mission from a friend’s son who is homeless. This friend’s son often received food from the Lims back when they were still living in a home. He directed the couple to Rescue Mission where they have been living for the past eight months.
“We’re the only Filipinos here,” said Mr. Lim.
In the beginning, the cultural barriers made it tough for the Lims to socialize with others who were staying there too. But over time, friendships began to form. Mrs. Lim was babysitting a dorm mate’s service dog at the Thanksgiving lunch. When she turned 59 recently, the dorm mates helped her celebrate as well.
“They got used to us, and we got used to them,” Mrs. Lim said with a chuckle.
From the look of things Wednesday, that seemed certain. While waiting in line to enter the dining place, Mrs. Lim held her dorm mate’s service dog, who was repeatedly being petted by others in line. During the wait, Mrs. Lim and others in line chatted about the new Lion King movie that had been playing for those waiting.
Mrs. Lim told the News-Press that there was definitely a community that comes together at Rescue Mission.
“I was here when I passed my RN test,” said Mrs. Lim, who added that she will soon begin searching for employment opportunities with one of the Cottage hospitals.
Mrs. Lim had been studying to become a nurse at Santa Barbara City College. She told the News-Press about the support she received from Rescue Mission volunteers and residents that helped her to study hard and not to give up.
“That’s why I passed,” Mrs. Lim told the News-Press. “It’s a good thing we have Rescue Mission or else we would have nowhere to stay.”
Apart from distant relatives in Southern California, the Lims do not have close family members in the U.S. Returning to the Philippines to reside with their family in Manila proves tricky because they are not citizens of the Philippines. When asked what helps her persevere through the difficulties, Mrs. Lim replied with a smile, “faith and community.”
The Lims’ story was only a portion of the many others who came to Rescue Mission Wednesday afternoon for the Thanksgiving meal. For more information on what the organization does, visit www.sbrm.org.