What has been one of the most challenging things that you’ve experienced or are currently experiencing?
“I would say, childcare. Yeah, I would say childcare. Because throughout this whole thing, like I’ve been here since, so that’s like being here trying to find stable housing is hard because I don’t have any income. But in order for me to work, I have to have childcare and it is like, I literally have no help. I can’t speak for everybody but my situation is all leads to childcare. Because my youngest is two, so trying to find something for her to be into, daycare costs way too much. Like the cheapest daycare, that’s like $250 a week. How am I supposed to afford that, even if I was working that still would be difficult. To pay $250 just for somebody to watch my kid for a couple of hours still having to pay rent and bills and everything else. It’s difficult. That’s actually what lead here, trying to … I was working at Popeye’s and Popeye’s don’t pay that much to pay rent and everything else. Trying to pay $800 for rent and then $200 or more for lights plus childcare.
“Transportation everything, it was difficult, very difficult. I mean I was doing it for a little while, but then I was no longer able to. Then finally not being able to pay for childcare, I had no one to watch my kids, at that time I had two kids that needed to be watched, so it’s like trying to find someone to keep two kids and there are close in age. So that was very difficult and not being able to have someone to watch them caused me to not be able work, which led me into losing my apartment and it’s like I have been doing this for two years. Back and forth between shelters, hotels and friends when I did have them. No, it’s like, literally I have nobody, not even friends, family, nobody. So now it’s even more difficult. It's actually very stressful at times, very stressful.”
What was your, your home life like growing up? Where you close with your family?
“No, not really, I. Me, myself, I never was too close to any of my family. I mean even my parents, like my father he wasn’t around much, but not by choice. That was because of my mother, she forbade him from being around. But, even with my mother, between her working a lot, trying to make ends meet, between her working a lot and then other things that she was involved in. I never really had too much of a relationship or even. I have really, they only family that I really was close with growing up was one of my cousins, but as we got older, we kind of split way a little. I mean, we still have contact, but we don’t have much of a relationship like we did growing up. My family, how can I put this, they’re about themselves.
“Like even when I first was facing losing my apartment, I turned to my family, even though we never really spoke, I still turned to them to ask them. ‘I’m working, can I give you a few dollars for,’ and at that time I only had one kid. And I’m like, ‘for me and my child to be able to stay for a little while, just so I can save up some money, so I can get a place.’ They said, ‘No.’ Like after that, everything just went downhill. Like I even called my mother and asked her if she could send me a couple of dollars and she would say yes, but never send it and then avoid all my calls.
“Like, I haven’t talked to my mother in months. It is crazy, because even when I never had a relationship with my mother, at the end of the day, that’s still my mother. So, I still like, want to have some type of contact, even it is just one a month we just say, ‘Hey how are you doing? Okay, love you too.’ Even if it’s just that. Don’t have that, at all.”
Do you have brothers and sisters?
“I actually have a lot of brothers and sisters. Like from my mother I have two brothers and one sister and from my father I have three sisters and one brother and then I have step sisters and brother also. I only speak one of all of them. Like in total it’s like ten or eleven, like counting my step sisters and brothers and out of all of them, I only speak to one. We used to be close, but as they got older they started to do certain things. Like, for example, my sister always used to say to me, ‘Just because you get involved with a guy don’t let him keep you from being around.’ and this and that. And then, that is just what she ended up doing. She got involved with somebody and after that I never really see her as much. She doesn’t text me as much or call me as much. Whenever I text or call her she either don’t respond or she does respond and be like, hours, sometimes days later. I don’t really see her as much either. We are not as close as we used to be, we used to talk all the time, about everything. Which kind of helped out, especially with me going through everything I’m going through. And, she even used to help me out, watching the kids and stuff, but now she says she can’t do it.”
So sounds like you didn’t really have much support to begin with and the little that you did, was enough to help you along, through some of those obstacles and challenges.
What about your children’s father, or fathers? Are they all from the same father?
“No, all three kids, they all have different fathers. My oldest who is eight, her father, he is the true description of a deadbeat. There is now nice way to put it. It is really not. I was really led on, I‘ve known him since I was fifteen and we didn’t actually get involved with each other until I was eighteen. But, I didn’t find out until after I was pregnant, that that entire time he was married, with nine or ten other kids. And only reason why I found out, the only reason why I found out is because he got into a really bad car accident to where he almost lost his life. I went to the hospital to go see him, me and my big belly, and standing right next to his bed was his wife. Yeah. And even as she tried to get him to step up and be there, because she, like after to talking to her, she knew this was how he was, he done had quite a few kids, throughout the time they were married. So, I mean, she tried to reach out me and everything, but he still never did anything. She did more for my child than he did. But, there no longer together, so. There is really no hope in that department.
“Then my second oldest, my son, he is four. His father passed away when he was three months, but nobody knew about me because, around the time I was pregnant, is when I found out that he was involved in a whole ‘nother relationship, like he was engaged, and living with a girl and everything. So, I kind of disappeared. I ended up moving out of state, and everything. He basically, he knew my mother very well, so my mother – once I had my son, she was showing pictures around and that’s when he tried to get in contact with me. But, shortly after tried to get in contact with me is when I got the news that he passed. I wish that I kind of would of said something to him, especially with this happening. Because that could have been a lot of help and support for me. Because, even though he wasn’t that good of a guy, his family had money, so. It would have helped me out a lot.
“Now my youngest. That’s the worst of all. Her father, she is two. Her father, in the beginning, was an awesome guy. He has four other kids, which surprisingly all by the same person. Which so the way the world is now, kind of surprising. But, he – what I didn’t know was he was not really around for them, and throughout the time I was him, he was not really around. I used to try to encourage him to be, because I felt every child should have their father around. Whether they have a good relationship with their mother or not. I always say to people, whatever issues any adults have going on, has nothing to do with their kids. Like don’t let it affect the kids in any type of way.
“But as time went on, certain things with him started to change. Then when I was pregnant is when everything really started to take a turn, I ended up finding out that he was on drugs and what little money I did have to pay rent and stuff, he took all of that. Which caused and eviction. So, me trying to – despite that, I still tried to have him involved in her life, but he was constantly disappearing. She needs you to be there. It was a couple of times a year, he gave her a couple pairs of shoes. But, I don’t want the material things. ‘If you want to buy her something, buy her some food, buy her some cereal. But what I really need is for you to around. Call her, anything.’ I’m Sorry, It’s a little emotional.
“And being around and just never was an option, never. Even right now he’s in jail, constantly still there. I’m like, ‘Why would you want go and put yourself in jeopardy of being out of your child’s life, if you get caught you’re going to jail,’ but that’s just what he chooses. And it’s crazy, because it’s not like he does it to actually help out, he does it just because. Even when he was working, ‘You got a paycheck. Your check is at least four hundred dollars a week, what need do you have to steal with a whole check in your pocket.’ And it’s crazy because with his check he pretty much had it all to himself. I paid all the rent and bills, everything myself, anything we needed as far as the household, I got it. ‘So what need did you really have.’ When I found out about the drugs, I’m like, ‘Okay, that clarifies certain things, but even still you got money in your pocket and you don’t do anything for your child and then’ – like he really tried to make everybody think that our relationship wrong because of me. He even tried to turn my one sister, that I told you I used to be close to, he even tried to turn her against me. Like, he was telling her that I was saying certain things about her, everything. But, luckily, she’s the type of person that she confronts the person before she reacts a certain way.
“Me and her was always able to talk things out. But, it’s like even when I faced the eviction my kid’s Godmother, she was staying with her mother and her mother didn’t want nobody staying there but she finally talked to her and let us come there. We went there for a little while, which wasn’t a good environment to have kids in. Especially at that time, it was literally right after I had my youngest, so she was just a month old, not even a whole month. They smoked, they drank, they are not clean, so having my kids in that environment was very hard for me. Like I never wanted my kids to be in that type of environment because I grew up in that type environment.
“My mother was never really around, she was either – she used to smoke a lot, drink a lot, she was always out partying. And me and my mother don’t have a relationship is because they guy she choose to marry – before she married him, she knew that every night he was coming into my room. And she still married him. And then made me her bridesmaid. Even though she knew what was going on, it went on for two years, even though she knew it. Once it got to everyone else – the police came and everything, she still denied it. And, even told me to my face that everything that we went through was all my fault because he ended up getting locked up. By him getting locked up, my mother couldn’t really afford to keep up with the mortgage herself, which she wasn’t doing to begin with, because we were always in the dark, or in the cold, our lights were always getting cut off, heat was always getting cut off.
“The time all of this led to me being involved with older guys. All my kid’s fathers are older. I am only twenty-eight and they are all in their forties. Everything I lived through, I tried to make sure my kids don’t go through. It’s hard because I am doing it all myself. Even being in the shelter, doesn’t help at all. Honestly, I try to tell everybody, honestly a shelter is not really there for help or support, it is just a place to lay your head at night.
“They don’t provide you with any help, only help they really, if you can consider it help. If a waiting list open for some type housing, or if they find out some place is hiring, they will tell you about it. With the housing application, they will get the application for you, you have to fill it out yourself, they will mail it out for you. Other than that, it is not really much help. I have been here since May, they give you sixty days with the possibility of three extensions, each extension is thirty days, so you can stay a total of five months. My five months is now up, my discharge is the thirteenth, what am I going to do, where am I going to go? I have to call 211 and start the process all over again, to try and get into another shelter, if they have an open bed. Nobody truly knows how hard and stressful it is for me, or what I really go through because I still look good, for my kids. Even now, I am involved in another relationship, but even being involved in that relationship because I finally found somebody who wants to help me, but isn’t able too. Right now, he is the one who has my youngest child, and he is picking my second one up from school and that all he can really do right now, to help me out. Even financially he can’t even really help me out because he is in a jam himself. His bank account is in the hole. He is staying with his family and they are struggling as well. He had two jobs, he ended up losing one and the other one isn’t really reliable, because the job, and now he is on suspension from that job which he just learned about today. So, it’s difficult, but even with trying to help with, even just like watching the kids for me is a great help, but it’s so many days that he can actually do that, because he still has to be at work or try to find work to be able to pay for where he is at. It’s like, when I – everytime somebody asks what are my goals? To get stability for my family. ‘What help do you need?’ Childcare, that’s all I need.
“They constantly tell me I have to apply to ten jobs a week in order for me to stay the rest of my time that I am here. I keep telling them, finding a job is not my problem, I have my CNA certification, I have my phlebotomy certification, I have a CPAR but is already expired. And, I also went to school for medical assistant, I didn’t take test, because I couldn’t afford it, it’s $150. I tell them finding a job is not the problem, childcare is, even once I get the job. For example, right now, I have a possible job offer that I may not be able to take. Who is going to keep my kids while I am at work. The child, his after school house, which makes it even worse, because I have to find somebody for three of my kids. I would be working three to eleven if I get the job. My oldest, she has an afterschool program, so she gets out at six, who is going to keep her from six to eleven? My son, he gets out of school at 2:30, who is going to keep him from 2:30 to eleven. My youngest isn’t in school, daycare or anything, somebody has to keep her from three to eleven. Who is going to be able to keep three kids. Everybody wants money. Everybody. Which is sad because even my kids Godmother, as a Godmother you chose to take on the responsibility of taking a parent role, so by you choosing to take that parent role for someone else’s kids, part of being is not wanting nothing back out of turn for whatever for that child. Even with their Godmother I still have to pay her also.
"I asked her to watch them one time and even she asked for a couple of dollars. She don’t ask for much, but you know I don’t have anything.I can’t even, I have no source of income, whatsoever. They only thing I get is food stamps from the state. That’s all my children get. I can’t even get cash assistance, because I was getting it, but you only get a certain amount of time to get it, my time ran out. They have another program, which is something similar to it, it is called Safety Net, where people who are no longer eligible to get cash assistance can get that, but because of budget cuts they are only helping people that are working again. I tell people all the time, nothing is as it seems, at all. People think that being in the shelter you get Section 8 automatically. No, it is not like that at all. It is just a place to lay your head for sixty days and within those sixty days you have to find something yourself.
“It is like, being here is different from than being in your own apartment, as far buying food. With my food stamps, honestly, I get six hundred and forty-nine dollars of food stamps and that is supposed to be for me and three kids. That is even enough, honestly. Being here is definitely enough, because if I was in my own apartment I could go buy bulk which can last longer. Being here you can only buy enough for a couple of days because you have a limited amount of space that you can put things, you have one little small cabinet that can only hold so much. In the refrigerator, you are only allowed to have one shopping bag worth of things. Because they have too regular refrigerators that is supposed to hold food for ten families. There are ten families here, and each of us, one person only has one kid, everybody else has two or more. How is one shopping bag supposed to hold you, especially me with three kids, my kids they eat a lot. They are very greedy, they eat a lot, they eat more than me. So one shopping bag, that’s enough for one day. I have to cook three meals a day, because I can’t go out and buy them no food, I can’t buy them pizza or Chinese. I have no income. So I am cooking all three meals, which is a lot on me as well.
“I am like, how do you expect one shopping bag to last me. That would mean I would literally have to go out every day to be able to get food for them to eat. Buying food every day is more than if you were to buy bulk. So now instead of my food stamps lasting three weeks out of the month, it’s only lasting me two weeks. Before, when I had my apartment it would last me just about until the end of the month. Buying in bulk I would make it all the way up to, say maybe the last three or four days of the month. Being here, I’m just making barely half way through the month. Being in the shelter is even harder, because, not only to the food stamps not last, you have people stealing your food, which is what we were talking about before we started.
“Everybody, I – one thing I say to everybody in here is where are all here in the same situation, yes, some people may be a little worse off. In my situation, I am worse off than anybody else in here, because some people. There are a few people in here that do work. Some of them work more than one job. The the other people that don’t work, they get some type of check, whether it’s state assistance, social security, unemployment they get some type of check. There may be one other person that may have no source of income, but they have people to help them.
“They have their child’s father. Their child’s father may not give them much, but at least you get something. Me, on the other hand, I have no help, no income and I tell everybody where are all in this together, we are all in the same situation. There is no need to steal from anybody in here, if you feel the need to steal, I hate to say it, but do it to somebody that’s out there, not somebody that’s in here that’s in the same situation as you.
“Everybody in here. We all kind of developed our own kind of family, you could kind of say. So, it is like, everybody already if you need something just ask. I have no problem with sharing. No problem at all. If you don’t have, I am not going to let your child go without. I wouldn’t want to see any kid go without eating, because I would do that as a kid.
“I just want them to be a kid. I wouldn’t let any kid, even if was walking the street and see some little kid and they ask for something to eat, I would give them something to eat, even if it was my last, I would give it to them. Because I know what it’s like. So everybody know, especially with me, I can’t really speak for everybody, there are a few other people here that feel the same as me. If you need something, just ask, I am not going to tell you no. If I don’t have it, then yes, I may have to tell you no because I don’t have it, but if I have it I am not going to tell you no. But when you steal it from me, you are taking from my kids, you are not stealing from me. Because I always said, me getting food stamps, I do that for my kids, so they can be able to eat. When you steal whatever food I have, you are stealing from my kids, by your taking out of their mouths, so don’t steal it, just ask. But, people still chose to steal stuff from other people which is very sad, because nobody should steal from anybody that is in the same situation that they are in. Especially me because I used to be very prideful, I was never one to tell anybody anything I was going through. I really used to be ashamed to tell people I was in a shelter. But, after about a year of living in a hotel, I realized that when you tell certain people, there are people that are willing to try and help you.
“When I was staying in a hotel, they had – it was this church that was renting a little space in there, that was where they had church at. One day I was walking by and I heard it, so I went in. I kind of told the pastor a little bit about my situation and what was going on. Even though they were a real small church, and he couldn’t help me out financially, they couldn’t give me any type of money. What they were able to help me with, was they provided dinner for me and my family every night. Which really helped out a lot. They kept saying to me, we know it’s not much. I am like, no, you don’t understand, it’s a lot. Dinner to me, dinner of all meals, is the most expensive. Breakfast, like cereal, oatmeal that’s all stuff that doesn’t really cost too much. With me to cook all three meals, even cooking breakfast, eggs and all that, really isn’t too much, especially since I get WIC, I get eggs, milk, cheese. I get bread, I get all of that on WIC. That stuff I don’t have to buy, they only thing I would have to buy is pancakes or the bacon or the sausage. Me going through this for so long, because I have been back and forth with this for years.
“When I was pregnant with my son, who is now four, when I was pregnant with him, that was my first time going to a shelter. It was hard, but because I was getting cash assistance it made it a little easier. I was actually able to find a place which is the apartment that I had, before I got evicted because of my youngest child’s father. Once I got evicted from there, that was two years ago, and I am still going through this. I am back and forth between shelters and hotels and it is hard, very hard.”
Before you ended up in your first shelter did you have an opinion of what, what it was to be homeless or what a shelter would feel like, or how it would be, and was it different from your experience?
“Yes, I did have an opinion. And yes, my experience was very different. My experience was nothing like how I thought because I would see homeless people all the time. Some would ask for change, some would ask for food, I would see them all the time, so my opinion formed based on what I have seen. What I see a lot of them go through, I really judged them, I really did. I’m like, you know, you asking, begging for change why not go get a job. Now me going through it, I understand, but I didn’t think it was going to be, I knew it was going to be hard, I did. I kind of figured that I would go through a lot, having to be in a shelter, especially with other people, people I don’t know. You never know how a person truly is. No matter how long you have known a person, you never really know a person. It’s a lot a person can be hiding from you.”
“For a long time, as close as me and my sister was, she didn’t know I was going through being homeless. It took a while before she actually knew. She used to always say something to me, and judge me based on certain decision I was making as far as me and my kids, not knowing that I was making these decisions because of my situation. My first experience going into a shelter I already knew things were going to be difficult and I had a certain expectation of how things would be, especially as far as getting help.
“But, once I went through the experience it was way worse than I thought it was. It is like they want you to be up by a certain time, basically it’s like a combination of being in the army and jail at the same time. You are, literally, they are running your life, that’s the best way to put it, they’re literally running your life. Being here we have to be up and dressed by 8:30, which to me is not a problem because my two older kids have to be in school. One thing I always saying, no matter what situation, education is always important, so you have to be in school no matter what. Even if I have to walk you all the way, all the way there through five feet of snow, you going to get there. It’s like with my youngest, having to get up every morning at 8:30 is even taking a toll on her, now she is ready to take a nap at ten o’clock in the morning, which is crazy. They want you up and dressed by 8:30 in the morning, they want you to do certain things, it’s like they are more into your personal business than you are. They want receipts for everything. One of the requirements is you have to save 50% of your income and if you are not able to save that 50%, they want receipts, basically proof that you are spending your money wisely. Like you are actually getting necessary things.
“Me, I have no source of income, but they still want me to provide receipts for my food stamps, which is crazy because you can’t save food stamps. If you have amount leftover at the end of the month, the state will take that amount left over. If they see you are always leaving $5 or $20, $100, they are going to take that amount out. If they see, of well she had $20 left over, now the following month she got $30, the following month she got $5, they are going to make an average and take out a certain amount, not knowing that you have this amount left over because of your situation. Me, I try hard to save a least a $100 for the last two weeks of the month, which is kind of hard, but it is like I really didn’t think that being in a shelter would be so demanding and take so much of my time and energy. Having to be up every morning at 8:30, up dressed, beds made by 8:30 with three kids, by myself is very difficult. Like this morning, I really had an incident where I started, I needed anger
management, I was ready to just take the chairs and just start throwing them over. But I knew if I did that I would be put out.
“Being put out with three kids would be horrible, because, especially since they called advocates for these kids. So, every little thing they are required to call DCF. So, if I get put out with nowhere to go, they are required to call DCF and tell them, oh well, a mother with three kids was just discharged and she has nowhere to go, so now they have to come and take the kids. But, my incident with this morning, is my oldest she has a habit of, when it’s time to get ready she takes too long, so I am like come on, hurry up, hurry up you got to make your bus. Because if she misses her bus there is no way for her to get to school, because they are not going to send another bus, and I don’t have the funds or transportation to get her to school and try walk her to school, especially with my other kids is kind of hard. When we actually get downstairs and it’s time for her bus to come, she is rushing me and the bus is not even in front. That becomes kind of aggravating and stressful.
"So, this morning, she kind of yelled, ‘Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.’ I am like, ‘Alright,’ but I yelled it kind of loud. The staff says to me, ‘You know so it like echo’s around here, so that’s really loud.’ I wanted to say something, because one thing I say to people, ‘Don’t look at my life from the outside and try to judge me or tell me what to do. You don’t know what I go through on a daily basis, so if you are not willing to help me, don’t say anything.’ The staff sees on a daily basis, I struggle. My youngest are very close in age. My youngest she is going through what they call the terrible two’s. I thought she was one of my kids that didn’t go through it, because she is now two and a half and it is just now kicking in. But I am dealing with the terrible two’s with here. My son, he’s not like any other little boy his age, I keep trying to explain to the doctors that he needs to be tested, but they keep trying to tell me that he is just a little boy. I know how little boys are. Because my mother moved south, I was raising my brothers myself.
“I had to provide for them, I had to make sure that their homework was done, they were in school, they washed, they ate. I did everything for them, when they got off the bus from school. I literally had to rush from my school, race to their bus stop to get them off the bus, because they can’t get off the bus unless someone is there. Then I’m home with them and even though my sister, was not too far behind me, we are only a year apart, she was always off by herself. So, trying to make sure my brothers are straight, she didn’t care.
“So, I did it all myself. No child should have to raise another child. But, I always tell everybody, nobody knows what I go through, nobody truly knows how much I struggle, how much stress and pressure I am under all the time. For you to tell me that I am too loud, you see that every morning I have constantly be running back and forth to the door to make sure my daughter’s bus does not leave without her, all at the same time, I’m running back and forth, because I’ve got one child running this way another running this way and I have to make sure they both stay here, which is hard because they are little. Because of the rules I have to make sure they are by my side at all times, which is hard, because, like I said, they are little. One wants to go this way, one wants to go that way, all at the same time, I have to try to get everything ready. I have to get them something to eat, so they can have a little breakfast but now it’s like I have no time to make breakfast, so I have to do the quick thing like a cereal bar or, you know, I don’t even have enough time to make them oatmeal. I always have to get them something quick, to try to get them something and make sure that they only stay in a certain area, because we can’t bring food nowhere else but in the kitchen. We can’t even have nothing to drink, other than water, outside of the kitchen. And I can only be in the kitchen during certain times, so you see I am constantly running back and forth between the kids. They are always arguing and fighting and crying and screaming, getting into this and getting into that. You see I am having a hard time every morning, you don’t offer any help or assistance, but then you tell me I am too loud. If you don’t want me to be loud, come help me. You see I am doing this with three kids by myself, that is why, I really – I don’t really use the word hate, but I really hate when people try to tell me what to do, what my life with my kids, and it’s people not offering any help or assistance.
“Like, I try to eat healthy, do healthy things, but being here is kind of difficult because you only have a certain amount of space to store your food and everything and you only have certain times that you can be in the kitchen. For somebody to tell me, I shouldn’t give my child chips, are you going to buy me food, no you’re not, so don’t tell me what to feed my kids. Despite stuff like that really irks me because, even with people that do know what I am going through still isn’t providing any help. And when I ask them for help they turn me down, but then you still have the nerve to try to tell me what to do with my life and my kids. If you want to tell me what to do, help me out. If you want to tell me, oh I should tell my kid not to do this and oh I shouldn’t do that or don’t give them this, oh, whey they wearing that? If you really have that much to say how about you come watch them for a couple of hours so I can go get a job. You don’t want me to feed them certain things, then how about you help me out and buy them some food so that way they can eat whatever you want them to eat. You don’t want them to wear that, how about you go buy some clothes so they don’t have to wear that. It’s funny, because even my husband does it. The one sibling that I was close to, she used to always say something about what my son was wearing or stuff like that, because he literally has two pairs of jeans and three sweatpants. Three or four pairs of sweatpants, both pairs of his jeans are big because they are basically hand -me-downs, somebody gave them to me, because of my situation. There are about a size and a half too big, but he can wear them, it’s not like they big to where they are falling off, it’s just the look because he is very short for his age, so leg size is a little too long, so I have to cuff them up. So, she has something to say about me cuffing the bottom of his pants. You got a problem with me cuffing his pants, how about you get him some pants or better yet, your son is not too much older than mine, how about you give him a couple of pairs of your son’s pants. You’re not doing that, so why are you worried about me cuffing his pants, at least he has pants on.
“I could be one of those parents, he could be walking around looking like anything, he is still presentable, that’s what counts. He doesn’t look like he is homeless, is what counts.”
Sounds like you are doing the best you can with what you have, and that it is frustrating that people judge what you are doing, how you are doing it, without putting themselves in your shoes, and recognizing you are doing the best you can with what you have and where you are.
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