A Mother and Son Put Homelessness in the Rearview -

Friends & Neighbors

A Mother and Son Put Homelessness in the Rearview

After her husband left, Tanya* struggled to pay the bills on her own. Eventually, she and her 12-year-old son moved in with her mother. She had a new job working with Medicaid, and her outspoken and outgoing son returned to a football camp out of state for the summer. While he was gone, Tanya and her mother had an argument and Tanya had no choice but to leave. She had nowhere to go, and found herself living out of her car. Her son was unaware of what his mom was going through.

Tanya shared what was happening with her cousin, who asked why she wasn’t staying in a shelter. She didn’t realize that was an option for someone in her situation. Her cousin gave her the number to Commonwealth Catholic Charities, which was within walking distance of her job. Shortly thereafter, she found herself going through the intake process for placement into a shelter, but there was no space available at the time.

A case manager from Housing Families First contacted her the next Monday, and by Tuesday, after spending two weeks in her car, Tanya was in the shelter.

“When you think of a shelter, you think it would be like the worst experience ever. I actually had a great time there,” Tanya says. It was nothing like she’d imagined or the grim place with cots shown on TV shows. It was the opposite. She had her own room, there were freshly made meals, and she soon met other people (and even reconnected with some she already knew from her neighborhood growing up). “It was very welcoming.”

When you think of a shelter, you think it would be like the worst experience ever. I actually had a great time there.

Originally, Tanya had been told that going from the shelter to her own residence would take up to two months; but it was only eight days before she was able to move into a townhouse in the same school district her son’s school was in. She had furniture and other items from her last home in storage, so she didn’t need assistance with furnishing the new place.

By the time her son was home from camp, Tanya was moving in. She couldn’t bring herself to tell him what had happened to her while he was away, but he was happy that he could return to the same school and liked the new place.

Four months in, and Tanya is approaching the date where she’ll be paying full rent by herself. At first, Housing Families First provided financial assistance, but now the bills are manageable for Tanya.

“I love my place,” she’s eager to say.

Tanya still hears from her case manager with Housing Families First every week—the weekly check-in helps everyone stay on the same page about what Tanya needs, most recently to let her know that she was eligible to get a basket of food for Thanksgiving. She’s grateful for the case manager for keeping in touch. Tanya considers herself someone who is motivated to accomplish the things she wants to do, but she is good at reaching out when she needs to. The case manager has been sending work opportunities on a daily basis and even set up an interview after Tanya mentioned she’s interested in a second job.

I love my place.

Recently, Tanya and her son drove by the shelter, and she used the experience to talk to him about where she had been that summer. He was surprised and asked to go inside and see what it was like, but Tanya decided to not to show him that day. Instead, she continues to focus on what’s next for her and her son.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the families we serve.