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Exclusive: 7 ON YOUR SIDE helps D.C. mother, 8 children living in car

ABC7's Jennifer Donelan, left, talks with Maria Herrera and her eight kids in the car. (ABC7)

An ABC7 viewer called in a tip to 7 on Your Side after seeing a mother and her eight children living in a car in Northeast, D.C.

7 On Your Side Fighting Back investigator, Jennifer Donelan, found the mother and children and the woman agreed to share her story with ABC 7 News.

"It's been really hard because I have been through a lot," explained 32-year-old Maria Herrera. Herrera and her children were huddled together in a Nissan sedan. The children ranged in ages from one year old to 15 years old. The car is where Herrera said they all slept Sunday night and it was one several nights in recent weeks.

Herrera said, "It's been hard. Imagine all these kids. I got babies where they need more attention. I have a disability baby that needs to be in a safe clean place."

Herrera told 7 On Your Side that she is the recent victim of domestic violence and that a few weeks ago, her alleged abuser kicked her and the children out of the D.C. apartment the couple shared.

"I was trying to get some help because every time I hear on the news and everywhere that they help people with domestic violence but ... um they haven't helped me," said Herrera sadly.

The mother of eight said between nights in the car, she's counted on the kindness of friends but their apartments have occupancy rules which, so far, they've dodged. Herrera claimed she had contacted at least 5 different organizations in the city for help for a permanent solution. But she said she was repeatedly turned away because she had too many children.

"They don't want to help me because I have more than five kids," said the mother.

One of Herrera's children told Donelan that she had a wish.

"I want a house for a Christmas," the young girl said.

And 7 On Your Side is happy to report that she may just get that wish. After our story first aired, we learned, the Virginia Williams Family resource center of the D.C. Department of Human Services is placing the family in housing where they will stay until a permanent living situation is found.

A spokesperson for the agency, which is focused on finding housing and shelter for homeless families in the city, reminded all residents the Virginia Williams family resource center on Rhode Island Ave NE is at their disposal. During the hypothermia season, there is great concern for families like Maria Herrera's. Even if the center is closed, the agency spokesperson reminded families to call 311, explain their situation, and request assistance.

There was an overwhelming response to Monday's 7 on Your Side story with Maria Herrera and her 8 children who were spending nights together in a car in the cold in the District.

Herrera explained that she was a victim of domestic violence and said that her alleged abuser kicked her and the children out of their apartment a few weeks ago. Herrera said she made contact with five different organizations and agencies, but said they told her they couldn't help her with shelter because she had too many children.

D.C.'s Department of Human Services stepped up through its' Virginia Williams Family Resource Center and placed the entire family that night in temporary housing where we are told they will remain until a permanent solution is found.

After watching Herrera's emotional story, many viewers wrote in or called in wanting to help the mother and the children. Among of host of gracious offers, we received several requests about how to send the children holiday gifts. The children include one-year-old twin girls, 3-year-old girl, 4-year-old son, 6-year-old girl, and three older girls ages 11, 13 and 15. A D.C. church is getting involved and will facilitate any offers of assistance. Here's the contact information:

Maria Herrera and her 8 children
c/oThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
4901 16th St NW
Washington DC 20010
Branch President is Patricio Ortega
cell: 240-750-3204

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