WASHINGTON DC (WUSA) --- "When I go to work, I feel safe. When I go to school, I feel safe. When I go to all the place, I know, in my house my family is safe. This is the reason...we stay here."
Gustavo Guerrero, Elisa Guerrero, and three sons escaped a violent neighborhood and have been living at Mary House since 2012. The non-profit organization offers families a safe place to live when they face a life-changing crisis.
"When the family was referred to Mary House, the youngest son was refusing to go to school because he wanted to make sure he was keeping his dad safe. The mother quit her job. They were already struggling financially," said Sharon Murphy, deputy director at Mary House.
"Last year was bad for our family, but in this organization we think that we have a new future," said Elisa.
Murphy opened the doors of her home 30 years ago to one family at a time. Since then Mary House has grown to offer transitional housing to nearly 50 families in the District and Takoma Park.
"We have had one year here and it's become so much clearer," said Elvis Guerrero, 17, a high school senior who plans to major in graphic design in college.
"We see so much more and my wonderful parents are here helping us get places. And we are moving forward," he said smiling.
The family has gained a peace of mind after leaving the violence behind them. Now the focus is on achieving life goals.
"The son is trying to get into college, You saw the 18-year-old believes the world is just waiting for him to capture, so in such a short amount of time offering such simple basic pieces that the family can reclaim their sense of direction, because I think the violence took so much from them," said Murphy.
Not only does Mary House provide housing, but the non-profit organization offers food, an after-school program and career counseling.
"I feel like we have a new opportunity and fresh start," said Elvis who is considering a few out-of-state colleges.
Mary House families pay between a third and a half of the rent costs on the open market.
"Circumstances and family income impact agreements with each family. Families are able to establish credit reference during their time at Mary House for housing after moving out of Mary House," Murphy stated.
The Guerrero's are saving up for their next home.
NOTE: Gannett Foundation has provided a grant to Mary House.
Produced by: Elizabeth Jia
WUSA 9 & WUSA9.com