Family of 5 no longer has to live in a garage

Living with three teenage girls can be trying, even for the most patient parents. So imagine living with your family of five – including three young women – in a garage for more than a year.

That was the plight of the Cedillo family, who watched their American dream crumble after Roque Cedillo lost his job in February 2008. Three months later, mom Xiomara Cedillo was laid off, and in the meantime, their adjustable-rate mortgage skyrocketed. The family lost their Stockton home to foreclosure, and after Roque Cedillo was hired at a stonemason company in the Bay Area, they decided to move to Sunnyvale in January 2010.

Into a friend’s garage.

“There was no privacy, and eight people were sharing a bathroom,” said Alejandra, 17.

“I would stay in the garage and only go out (into the house) for food and the bathroom,” added Mariana, 15.

Despite the cramped quarters, their friend’s generosity was a lifesaver for the family, who began saving every penny in the hopes of getting their own place. Once Xiomara Cedillo landed a job in September 2010, the family was even more eager to find an apartment. But months of searching turned up nothing they could afford.

Then Alejandra and her mother came across the Ahwanee Garden Apartments in Sunnyvale. The monthly rent was within their budget, the apartment had two bedrooms and two bathrooms and the manager was willing to work with them.

“I was kind of worried because we had bad credit and it’s hard to get a place – everywhere we went, they would ask us about jobs and credit,” said Xiomara Cedillo. “This lady said, ‘Bad things happen to good people. We’ll work it out.’ ”

With that settled, the only remaining problem was securing enough money to pay both the security deposit and the first month’s rent. They were stumped – until Maria Buenrostro, their case manager at Sunnyvale Community Services where the family receives help with groceries, mentioned The Chronicle’s Season of Sharing Fund.

“The kids are all attending school and they both have jobs … so when the opportunity came up for more suitable housing, I said, ‘You really can’t pass this up,’ ” Buenrostro said. “I brought it to my supervisor and we were able to assist them through Season of Sharing,” which paid the family’s first month of rent.

Now, nearly a year later, the family is thriving in their new place. Xiomara and Roque have their own room and bathroom – and still revel in being able to close a door. Alejandra is applying to colleges, while Mariana, 15, and Veronica, 13, have much more room for homework and hanging out.

Their shared room is crammed with signs of teenage girls, including Mariana’s dream catcher collection, a vanity for doing hair and makeup, pictures of the girls and a huge Lady Gaga poster.

“The room is my favorite part – and the two bathrooms,” said Alejandra. “Before, we didn’t want to put up stuff.”

And this year, the family was able to host Thanksgiving dinner at their own kitchen table – and are looking forward to celebrating Christmas around their own tree.

“We have a lot to give thanks for this year,” said Xiomara.