Before we got to the Mission, we were on our last leg. We needed a place to go and hadn’t found a housing opportunity yet. I called the number that I found online. I was on the fence. I was researching shelters because, having the kids, I knew there were some things in certain places that were not good. I was just worried. And so I talked to Sydney. She was the first staff person at the Mission I talked to. She told me all the things that we can expect at the shelter and what daily life looks like. She told me I can call her anytime and even invited me to come take a tour so I could make sure it was safe and ok for my kids. I went on a tour and I felt happy being there, as soon as I walked in. Everyone was really awesome. So we made that plunge. That’s how I came to be at the Mission.

It feels like its own little world. It just felt like you were safe in a way. It felt like you were in your own little spot. Nothing could touch it. I think It just felt new possibilities. Maybe that’s the word, A new beginning. It felt good, I guess. Yeah, that’s what I felt. 

We left an unsafe situation, a really unsafe situation. We were in our car, not all the time. We had places to take a shower and do other things. We weren’t able to sleep there obviously, but I could at least use their facilities or things like that. Make sure the kids are taken care of. But it was really hard with the kids because the kids were used to their home and then we didn’t have a home. 

I think one of the most impactful things for me was creating a community. I always told Sydney whenever we had our one-on-ones. I feel like it was my spiritual reset kind of thing or spiritual checkpoint. Being at the family shelter, I feel like there’s always support around. I felt like everyone was really kind to the kids, they were safe, but they could be themselves to you, even though obviously not running up and down and climbing all the things, but they could still kind of run around and be themselves and they could go up to the people and talk to them and the staff, meet people and feel welcome.

I made some good friends there and I made some good connections and I feel like I got to help people and they helped me and that’s what it felt like. It was just like we were just one big community of people that were going through the same thing, different things maybe, but kind of the same path, same situation of needing a new start. 

In a lot of ways I feel like I reclaimed my real self, I guess. It felt like I was more of me. It feels like a good community. I love that the kids feel comfortable. I see God’s love in all these things. I see God was in the whole journey. In the time when I was searching for homes or searching for housing or a program or shelter or something, I always kept seeing this sign that said, you’ve earned a place to call home and it’s coming. I took that as God’s message that we’re going to find our place.  

It’s going to be better for us. I don’t know why it felt that way, but I just knew it was going to be better. 

It’s like I was doing all this work and it was leading me somewhere somehow. Now the message is “your new adventure waits for you”. That’s literally the sign I see every time now. It sounds weird to explain that sometimes. My whole life when I was younger I’d see signs like that here and there.  

I felt like I was there for a reason. I always believed that when I’m in a place, I’m there for a purpose, whether it’s to help someone or to help me. And so maybe that means I had to go through that, whatever, to get to that point. I felt like most of the people I met there, I feel like we were meant to be in each other’s presence.

I’m going to really miss all the staff. I felt like we built something there. Family and community was the biggest theme that I know for sure. I felt like we were in a part of a big community and I felt happy.  

They said the architecture of the shelter was created to make people feel like it’s not a prison, it was made to make you feel like you were a guest. You felt like you were going to a new place, which could be scary, but it felt good. And I liked that they had the career center there. So I did do that right away. I learned a lot more about maybe human services and that it was a career that I might fit into. They’re only there to help. They help me understand that they’re there to help. They’re not there to try to hurt you.  

They help empower you to feel like you can make the decisions for yourself that you need to make. They always said,

“if it’s not good for you, don’t do what’s not good for you. You’ve got to do what’s good for you and your kids.”

And that was something they always kept in the back of my head. For me, sometimes I felt pressured to just do things because that’s expected for you to just take anything you’re given because of the situation you’re in, even if it may not be good for you. I’ve noticed that the staff was big on taking care of themselves, make sure they’re not being too overwhelmed by everything. They taught me to do the same thing. I’m learning now about boundaries.  

We did go to all the events they had, so that part was fun. The kids love that, so I like that a lot. I feel like for us it is kind of like going through the fire in a way. You’re going through almost like a phoenix. You go through the fire, you become new, but you’re the same. Maybe. It’s kind of what it felt like for us going through the cycle of that same situation, leaving that unsafe situation, then thrusting yourself into an uncertain situation in a shelter. 

So when I think about Easter, going to the shelter felt like New Life to me.

It may not be the same for everyone else, but for me, I felt like I was able to breathe again. I was able to really look at myself differently. And mostly because the staff, the case managers and the staff in the front, they really imbued me with a sense of confidence. They saw me, even if I didn’t see that part of me, the qualities they appreciated. I didn’t always see it or feel that way, but they made me feel like I was a good person. Or even when I was going through challenges, they didn’t beat me down or nothing, or they didn’t even think it was bad. They still praised me for the things that I did do great. They gave me more confidence and empowerment to keep doing those things and to really get to that new beginning that we were really aiming for, which was our own home.  

I felt like I was going out on a limb going to the family shelter, not knowing where I’m walking into, but still trusting. Maybe that’s where the new life came from, having that confidence from people having confidence in me every step of the way, no matter what I’m going through. 

I feel like I’m more capable. I’m more equipped with the right tools to get to where I need to be. And I’m okay with, I’m more equipped to say no to things that are not okay, and more to say yes to things that are okay. 

What I’ve learned a lot now is, I don’t have to just accept anything, like the beggars can’t be choosers mentality. God doesn’t see people like that. The Mission doesn’t see people like that. Like they didn’t have to make the family shelter as beautiful as they did and give everyone their own rooms, but they did. It’s not just giving people the bare minimum and saying you need to be grateful because it’s better than the street, right? The Mission and the staff here taught me that no matter my situation, I’m still deserving. Like of course I need to be realistic, but it’s okay to have higher standards and want more.  

Do you have anything to share with our community members who support everything we do here? 

They do a lot for the clients. There’s a lot of things that we need when we’re at the shelter. The food daily is a necessity, the youth program is extremely important because there’s a lot of kids there and they need to feel motivated, too. They need to feel good and see something to look forward to just like the adults. Like with Christmas, people donated gifts for every family and for every family member. That actually was something that I wasn’t even expecting. I didn’t know we were doing anything for Christmas, to be honest. That was still something that helped me make this situation better for my kids. Families here, they’re coming from probably the worst of the worst situations you can imagine. They’re just disheartened. Maybe they need to drop their kids off at the youth program so they can get things done for a couple hours or just clear their mind. That’s all needed. I think that if community partners were to read this, the one thing they would need to know is how important they are in all of this because those things just wouldn’t be available without them. They’re helping to build people up to where they’re meant to be. 

What message would you give families who are still working toward stability? 

One thing I know is that the staff is there to help us, not hurt us. For the clients who are still in the shelter, use the resources that are available. If you don’t know what’s available, just ask or even talk to people who have been at the shelter longer. I got a lot of things like that, talking to other people or residents actually helped me grow. We all helped each other move forward.  

It’s a client-led kind of thing where you’re finding your own housing. They’re not going to find the housing for you, but they will give you the tools. But I know that’s the one thing I would say to the clients, they’re all there to help you at the Mission. Another thing is maybe to use youth program. It’s doing to good things and helping the kids so much.