A second chance
By Ethan Smith
Published in News on July 29, 2014 1:46 PM
Ruby Pichirilo organizes clothes in the women's room at the House of Fordham. Ruby and her son found refuge in the house earlier this month after she ran out of money.
Ms. Pichirilo sorts through more clothes -- work she completes in exchange for having a place to stay until she can get back on her feet.
She wanted a new start. Instead, she found herself spending the last $10 she had to put gas in her truck with nowhere to go, and no idea what was going to happen next.
Ruby Pichirilo, 31, came to North Carolina in 2013 with her 9-year-old son in hopes of changing her life. She had moved to Florida on the condition that she work and her mother help her with various responsibilities. Instead, she ended up handling everything herself.
"When it came time for my mother to help, she didn't want to," Ms. Pichirilo said. "She pushed me away. If the only family I had where I was before was pushing me away, why would I stay?"
Before she left Florida, she was working from 7 a.m. to midnight to provide for herself and her son. She chose to come to North Carolina because she had vacationed here before and thought it would be a good place to start new.
After finding a place to live in Pink Hill, she gave the landlord her money for the deposit and rent, and the landlord took her money and ran, leaving her broke in an unfamiliar state with a young son and no family. He had used a fake name on all transactions, leaving himself unable to be tracked.
"I kept calling him and calling him but didn't get an answer," she said. "I stalked him almost, and eventually got him on the phone. He cussed me out and I was pleading with him, crying on the phone, begging him, trying to get him to understand my situation, I kept saying, 'How can you do this to me? I have a son.'"
Ms. Pichirilo wanted to file charges, but with no money and no accurate information on the man that took her money, she was unable to do so.
"I went to authorities and they told me they needed $100 to even open a case on the guy," Pichirilo said. "Of course, after he took everything I had, I had no money, and I didn't have any information on who he was, so I couldn't do anything."
Left with nothing and with no hope of recovering the money from the landlord, Ms. Pichirilo found a place to live in Kinston.
But with no income, and no way to pay the utilities, she ended up evicted.
Now without a home, she had to live out of her truck, hoping to find a job and to land on her feet.
"Every night after my son would fall asleep, I would sit there and just cry," Ms. Pichirilo said. "But I did everything I could to make sure I hid how bad things were from him. I made living out of my truck into an adventure, telling him we were going on adventures to different places. If he was hot, I would sit there and fan him until he cooled down if that's what it took. He ate before I did, and there were a lot of times where I went days and didn't eat."
None of this was easy for Ms. Pichirilo, and hope wasn't always an option in her darkest hours.
"I went into a deep depression. Every night I felt like giving up. Suicide was written all over my face every time I turned around. The only thing that kept me going was my son."
Her fresh start had turned into a nightmare.
"I was doing things to survive you would never imagine doing when you're on top," she said.
And that's what brought her to that gas station, with her last $10, sobbing in the parking lot.
It was then that a complete stranger stopped and asked her what was wrong.
She told the woman her story.
The woman gave her the number to the House of Fordham in downtown Goldsboro.
And, with a phone call, Ms. Pichirilo's luck changed.
She called the number at about 9 p.m. and reached director Linda Burroughs.
"She invited me to a dinner they were having the next day. I went and talked to Linda and then she told me that I had a home at the House of Fordham. I moved in the next day."
Now, she works in the ladies' home to pay her rent, and to provide for her son. Pichirilo is currently working to obtain her high school diploma, and then plans to attend college to achieve her Certified Nurses' Assistant certification to establish a life for herself and her son. She says she only wants to give him the best of everything, and to always be able to provide for her family of two.
Call it her second chance at a fresh start.
Or you could call it "hope."
"You might hit the lowest of lows," Ms. Pichirilo said. "Just keep looking forward and a door will open. Something will happen, even if you have to lose your pride."