BERKELEY, Calif. -- The heartbreaking story of a single mother who couldn't get her benefits from the Employment Development Department quickly went viral last week. The denial of unemployment benefits left her and her four-year-old boy living in a car. Now, hardship has turned to hope.
The story prompted an outpouring of support for Shelby Hughes and her son, Callen. And, after the report from ABC7's sister station KGO-TV, the EDD finally paid overdue benefits. But even more help came from hundreds of viewers who were moved by her story.
Hughes was living a happy life with her son, until the pandemic hit.
Hughes lost her two jobs, then the EDD cut off her benefits, with no explanation. "I started losing everything one by one," she told us.
Hughes and her son began living in their car.
"I try to tell EDD, too. I know I'm just another claim, just another number, but this is my life," she said.
Across the state, offers to help came pouring in.
Karen Wilmot-Causey in Vallejo offered Hughes a job.
"I have work available and if it's a matter of daycare, I would not be above wanting to sit with her son," she said. "It brought back a lot of memories of when i was a single mom."
Doyle Borchers, a Napa resident, said: "We have guest quarters in our house. They could just come here and stay."
Bay Area resident Bonnie Holland also offered assistance. "My husband and I looked at our budget, and we can afford to give her $1,000."
We told of the Hughes' frightening nights alone -- and how Callen longed to go to a swimming pool he'd "seen," but couldn't "have."
Patti O'Brien in Oakley offered a room in her home -- with a pool in the yard.
"It was heartbreaking," O'Brien said. "She can come here with her son, and I have a pool -- and I saw he wanted to swim and I thought, oh my gosh."
Then there's Janelle Hendrickson in Redlands.
"I put myself in her situation and it was just one of those things that you do what you have to do to help another mom," she said.
She started a GoFundMe campaign on Hughes's behalf.
"If it makes a difference, and she gets a home, that's great. You just want babies to be safe," Hendrickson said.
So far, it has raised over $58,000.
"First of all, I want to be able to say thank you to everybody," Hughes said after the outpouring of support. "And how much you're going to change my son's life. I could never thank you enough."
And then, the reason KGO-TV's 7 On Your Side got involved in the first place.
Hughes finally got her unemployment benefits -- at least most of them.
"I don't know, it's all so surreal to me," Hughes said.
The EDD payments from last spring suddenly popped into her account.
"Words could never describe how much peace it's giving my heart right now," Hughes said.
7 On Your Side asked EDD what went wrong in her case and how it was resolved, but EDD cited privacy rules and did not respond to a request for an explanation.