A local mother who slept in her car with her 9-year-old daughter for much of the past year said she kissed the floor and cried happy tears when she was given the keys to her family's new home this week.

Community members have been helping Juanita Meier and her daughter Kylie since they were found sleeping in a broken-down car in a Fred Meyer parking lot during a thunderstorm May 4. Good Samaritans paid for a few nights in a hotel, which quickly grew to the entire month of May as word of the Meiers' plight spread.

A former longtime resident, Meier fled to Arizona last year to stay with family after her daughter was assaulted by a local man. She returned in December to testify against the assailant, who remains incarcerated, but a series of trial delays cost Meier her job back in Arizona, and car troubles and a lack of stable housing left her and her daughter homeless.

Fortunately, Meier knew that come June 1, she and her daughter would have a place to live inside a new housing complex constructed in White City along Division Road, thanks to the Jackson County Housing Authority.

Vincent de Paul provided help with the deposits, and Meier spent Thursday happily cleaning out the hotel room that had become their home for a month.

"It restored my faith in humanity and in the kindness of strangers," Meier said. "People kept donating. They would go up to the desk every few days and pay a little here and there."

She said some nights were covered by a local pastor, and several were "thrown in" by the Traveler's Inn manager.

The new home reunites Meier with her 13-year-old daughter, who had been staying with her friend's family to finish the school year.

"The kids each get their own rooms," Meier said. "They deserve it. I'll just sleep in the living room. I don't even care. I'm good. Everything is good now.

"I stopped and bought a barbecue for $17.99 at Bi-Mart and a bag of briquettes. I'm going to grill my girls some steaks tonight. Our home is brand new. It's perfect. I kissed the floor and cried so much today."

Kylie was excited for her family to be together and to have a newly built place to call home.

"We had to stay at the motel Travel Lodge. It was a little uncomfortable because like my mom kept eating in the bed and there was so much crumbs but we got to be together and not in the car at night," Kylie said.

"I'm going to have my own room — a new room — and I'm going to have it decorated with butterflies with stuff and with lots of colors like blues and pinks and oranges. I like all colors. My room is going to be really big and really nice. The carpet is actually wooden floors instead of carpet and we're sleeping on the floor at first but then we'll get beds later."

Meier said she was "over the moon" excited for stable housing, which she said would enable her to find employment.

Meier noted she lost a storage unit during her financial troubles.

"We have nothing," she said.

"But we have everything."

Meier and her daughters could use donations of household items, bedding, furniture and basic necessities. To offer items, call Maslow Project for drop-off information at 541-608-6868.

Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.