We strive to make every family successful. Here are five stories of families who gained their independence with the help of Families Together.
At just 26 years old, Ashley has faced more hardship than most people her age. Her early childhood was marked by abuse and constant evictions until at age 12 she was removed from her home and adopted by her aunt. Despite her challenges, Ashley earned a college degree, had a job and her own place, and was devoted to her two young children.
Until she tried to move to a new apartment … then everything fell apart.
“There was an eviction on my credit record connected to my mother, and it was too late to get my apartment back. Even when I paid off the debt, a lot of places wouldn’t take me.”
For the next 10 months, Ashley and her children were homeless. She was able to have family members keep the children for some of the time. The separation was difficult but Ashley did all she could to be there for her son and daughter.
“I’d work all day, drive 60 miles round trip to see my kids, help them with homework, tuck them in bed and tell them everything would be okay. Then I’d head back and stay wherever I could – friends’ places, motels, sometimes in my car . . . I was worn out.”
At Families Together, Ashley found the compassion and help she needed. “I didn’t know what to expect, but my Mentor Advocate made me feel very welcome. I was comfortable talking to her about everything that was going on with me.” On the day she finally moved back into her own place, “I took two days off from work and just slept.”
Today, Ashley feels more confident and is determined to be the best possible parent. “I’ve learned a lot. But I feel I needed this experience to truly find myself.”
In the Families Together program, Ashley received help with budgeting, repairing her credit record, finding an affordable apartment and paying for her deposit. Volunteers provided Thanksgiving meals and Christmas gifts. “Anything I needed, they helped me.”
Memories from her own childhood made Ashley afraid to reach out for help. “I was scared that if someone found out we were homeless, they would take my kids.” A friend who had been helped by Families Together urged her to call. “I’d never been in any kind of program before and to be honest,
I was embarrassed. But I had to put my pride aside.”
Her advice to other parents experiencing homelessness is simple and direct: “It’s scary. But you have to get help and have someone in your corner. Don’t try to do it on your own – think about your kids.”
“I didn’t know what to expect, but my Mentor Advocate made me feel very welcome. I was comfortable talking to her about everything that was going on with me.”
All Yasmine and her husband wanted for their three children was a safe and affordable place to live. But that simple dream proved elusive. Having already left an apartment complex plagued with crime, they were disheartened by the rapidly increasing level of gang activity at their new location.
Yasmine remembers, “We were harassed by our neighbors for speaking about the problems to the property manager. Garbage was left at our front door, and groups would stand behind my car so I couldn’t back out. We even had to take turns leaving work early to get the kids safely from the bus stop to our apartment.”
After her husband got into an altercation with gang members, Yasmine knew it was time to leave. “By promising not to say bad things about the complex, we were let out of our lease.” Without a place to live, the family moved into an extended stay motel. “It was cramped and it was expensive. We couldn’t save any money and it was hard to align our paydays with the weekly rent.”
Their past credit history made it hard to find another apartment, and two months later, the family was still stuck in the motel. “We tried to keep the kids’ routine as normal as possible. We’d take them to their old bus stop in the mornings and meet them in the afternoons so they could get to and from school."
Yasmine called Social Services and was referred to Families Together. “Within a week, we had moved into a short-term apartment. That was an awesome day.” Working with their Mentor Advocate, Yasmine’s family was able to repair their credit and move into a house outside the city. The children had to change schools, but to Yasmine, it was worth it. “They miss their friends but are doing well, and attend a local afterschool club. We don’t have to hide inside anymore. Finally, we feel safe.”
While living in the Short-term Apartments at Families Together, Yasmine and her family enjoyed the programs and activities for both children and adults. She points to the education aspect of the program as being the most helpful. “What I learned about budgeting and working with landlords . . . that really could have helped me in the past.”
Yasmine describes the experience of homelessness as pressure-filled. “It is stressful wondering how you’re going to get through the day, how you’re going to pay for the motel. As a parent, what you want for your children is for them to be warm, fed, safe, and have a place to sleep.”
Moving her family into a private three-bedroom apartment, even though it was temporary, was a welcome respite. “It was good to be out of the tight space and to be living around others who were in the same situation. Everyone we worked with at Families Together was great and willing to help.”
When Deanna fled domestic violence and moved into a shelter, she didn’t know what the future held, but she knew one thing: she would do anything for her three young children.
“I had a job, but because of my credit, no one would take me. The kids kept asking ‘Why can’t we go back to our own house?’”
Deanna did all she could to keep her children’s routine, so they’d feel somewhat “normal.” On the difficult days, when Deanna was driving all over town between work, school, daycare, and the shelter, she kept reminding herself, “This is not permanent, this is not permanent.” She used her current circumstances as motivation to move in a positive direction.
“When you’re homeless, you feel so vulnerable and exposed.”
Soon, Deanna was connected with Families Together.
“My Mentor Advocate, Corey, immediately got to work and we created a strategy for finding a place to live – looking at what was affordable and suitable in the best area for my family. I attended financial workshops, which were life changing and helped me repair my credit. I even started saving some money. When we found an apartment, Families Together advocated for me with the landlord and I’m very grateful for that.”
On the first night in their new apartment, Deanna and her children felt, “Peace. I was given a second chance – a fresh start.”
Through Families Together, Deanna received financial assistance with first and last month’s rent and her security deposit. She describes the move to her new apartment as “Phenomenal! We were blessed with wonderful resources of furniture and household items – all the way down to the towels.”
Today, Deanna’s family is just like any other, enjoying life and moving forward. Deanna has a new job and is back in school to earn her accounting degree. “I’m so pleased with the neighborhood we’re in. We’re close to everything now and the kids are doing well.”
When asked what it means to families like hers when people give to Families Together, Deanna doesn’t hesitate. “Giving to this organization, you can be assured you will change someone’s life – you can completely turn it around. When you support Families Together, you are pouring into someone’s life.”
“Giving to this organization, you can be assured you will change someone’s life – you can completely turn it around."
When Kathleen’s relationship reached its tipping point, the police showed up and she was given 10 minutes to gather her things, take her infant son and two-year-old daughter, and leave.
“It was crazy. It was scary. I had no job, no money
for a place to live, and no car. I was an emotional mess and I had no idea how I was going to survive.”
Kathleen was able to use her father’s old car and live temporarily with her Aunt and Uncle, but it was stressful. “I was always worried about being a burden.” She found a minimum wage job, but she knew it would never pay enough for her to afford her own apartment.
Through a career-readiness program, she was referred to Families Together and received financial assistance to move into her own apartment. “I would not have been able to have the money saved up and Families Together let me be able to give my children a home.
I remember the day we moved in very well, because it was my son’s first birthday!”
For Kathleen, sharing her story is a way to give back, and she’s also returned to Families Together as an enthusiastic volunteer through her church. “To be able to help those who helped me is really special.”
Today, five years later, the children are thriving and Kathleen has moved into a supervisory role at work. “I’m in a much better place. I feel strong and happy. Having a home . . . you feel human again. Families Together helps give families hope.”
Kathleen worked with her Mentor Advocate at Families Together for a year after she signed her lease to help ensure she maintained her housing. During that time she found a better job, but was laid off. Families Together stepped in to provide additional assistance until she was employed again. “This made a huge difference. It kept me from becoming homeless and it kept me moving forward.”
When her rent went up, Kathleen decided it was time to move, but this time, she was empowered, prepared, and knew what to do. “Working with Families Together, I had learned to work with landlords and be more financially savvy. I moved in with my mother for a short time, saved my money for a deposit and now we’re settled in a great
home right near my children’s school.”
I’m in a much better place. I feel strong and happy. Having a home . . . you feel human again. Families Together helps give families hope.”
In 2008, the economy collapsed and Jermel lost his job. Even with a business degree, it was hard to find work and even harder for him to hold onto his home. In time, Jermel lost that too. And so began a transient life of staying with friends, living in his car, working part-time and just getting by. “Then my teenage children came to live with me. We had to find a different solution.”
For a while, that solution was to live in their church office. By day, the children attended school and Jermel worked multiple part-time jobs. At night, they’d settle in once the church closed. “The children didn’t like it, but we developed a routine and tried to get as comfortable as possible.”
After calling a number of places, Jermel connected with Families Together. Soon, he and his children moved into one of the Short-term Family Apartments which provided privacy and a more homelike feeling. “The staff was very kind. I felt welcome and not so isolated. The kids were happy finally to have their space. They could stretch out and not have to sleep in chairs.”
When he talks about working with his Mentor Advocate, Jermel chuckles. “From day one, she was always saying, ‘Okay, let’s find you a place live.’ After what we’d been through, I just wanted to lay down my head for a little while! But she worked diligently to find housing for us.”
Ultimately, persistence paid off for Jermel and his family in both the housing and job arenas. He found full-time employment and he and his children received assistance from Families Together to move into their own apartment. “Being homeless, you have no control. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the street, or staying with a friend, or sleeping in a hotel. That control is precious and I’ll do everything I can not to lose it again.”
Even though Jermel and his family have “graduated” from the Families Together program, there is still a connection. Before becoming homeless, he had already co-founded his own nonprofit, We Are One Community Outreach, which serves the needs of the rural communities just outside the city. “Our focus is revitalizing the community, educating the youth, uplifting humanity, and restoring our society as a whole.” And recently, Jermel reached out to Families Together to partner for a special fundraising event which helped raise money for both nonprofits.
These days, Jermel keeps a schedule that would tire the average human. “I work my regular job during the day, attend graduate school at night, and we’re growing our nonprofit so I can run it full-time.”
When asked to reflect on the impact of being homeless on his service to the community,
he acknowledges that he’s changed. “I knew I wanted to serve those in need, but after experiencing homelessness, I can definitely say that now I have more understanding and more passion.”