Jorge Espinoza and his family of six live in a small, downtrodden trailer home owned by his mother in the outskirts of a Starr County community.
Parts of the walls are missing insulation and drywall. Next to the entrance is a child-sized mattress embedded in the wall, acting as a replacement for the missing insulation.
The interior is dark with few small streaks of light pouring from the makeshift curtains draped over the windows. The only source of light was a bulb in the kitchen that is connected to the living room. Both areas take up about two thirds of the entire home.
The only bedroom in the house is on the far end left, opposite of the living room.
When asked where her kids sleep, Dinorah, Jorge’s wife, simply pointed to the couch she was sitting on.
“They sleep here in this area,” she said in Spanish. “The oldest, Christopher, and Angel usually sleep here. Sometimes the younger ones sleep with us on the bed.”
The couple has four kids living in their home. Christopher, the eldest at 18, Angel, who is 14, and Erick and Aaron, who are 9 and 6, respectively, tend to sleep on the living room couches.
Christopher had been working at McDonald’s for awhile and going to school, but struggling to do both. When he moved in with his father in May, he had trouble enrolling in local schools. Because of this, Christopher is currently working full time on receiving his GED and aspires to enroll at South Texas College as soon as he’s able.
Jorge’s living situation is only worsened by medical conditions he and his wife suffer from. Dinorah has high blood pressure and has only recently been prescribed medication, though she was diagnosed about a year ago when they lived in Freeport.
“It used to be where I would have constant headaches,” she said. “There were times where the pain was so bad, I couldn’t leave my bed. I would have to sleep all day. It came to the point where I didn’t want to take painkillers anymore because they wouldn’t do anything for me.”
Jorge, who works full time for the county, had been experiencing similar symptoms but was diagnosed with diabetes after receiving a medical checkup in October. Due to his new medication and diet, Espinoza doesn’t experience the usual headaches anymore but has been losing weight and feeling weak. Drowsiness is a side effect of his prescription.
“It used to be that I would get straight home from work and I would begin making repairs on the house,” he said. “But now, when I get home from work, I usually just go to sleep because I’m so tired.”
The family receives SNAP in terms of government assistance, which Espinoza is grateful for. Although a new Trump administration rule threatens hundreds of thousands of people’s SNAP benefits, Jorge is not worried.
“Sometimes it’s hard to find work for (people who need assistance),” he said. “It’s even tough for young, healthy people to find work, so it’s especially hard for those who are sick.”
Jorge’s main wish is to build a new room for his kids to sleep in. He hopes to make repairs to his house to make it feel more like a home for them by creating more space. The family’s home lacks a closet as well, another amenity they wish they had, along with some new furniture.
“A new stove would be nice, too,” Dinorah said, laughing shyly.
In addition to home repairs, home appliances and furniture, the Espinoza family could also use some new clothing. Jorge wears shoes size 9-and-a-half, size 3XL shirts and 44 waist size pants. Dinorah wears a size 9 in women’s shoes, size XL in shirts and pants in size 14. Christopher wears shoes size 10-and- a-half, a shirt size of XL and pants at waist size 38. Angel wears shoes size 9, shirt size of L and size 32 in pants. Erick wears size 2 in shoes, a size M in kid’s shirts and waist size 9 pants. Aaron wears size 13 shoes in kid’s size, a size S in kid’s shirts and S size kid’s pants.
For information on how you can donate to Jorge’s family, call the United Way of South Texas at (956) 686-6331, between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and inquire about contributing to The Monitor’s Spirit of Christmas campaign.
All donations go to the family. United Way does not keep any of the proceeds donated.