When they were homeless, Sarah could barely answer her daughters when they asked where they were going to live next. Now in their new home at St. Margaret’s, she can now dream of a future of college education and home ownership.
A dresser, a Christmas tree, a home… these are things often taken for granted, but for Sarah (name changed to retain anonymity) and her three daughters, these are things they never had.
They had each other and little else.
However, that all changed when their family moved into St. Margaret of Cortona Family Transformational Housing last February.
“This is our first place,” Sarah said. “This is the first time the girls aren’t sleeping with me. It’s the first time we’ve had a closet and furniture and space for a Christmas tree.”
Sarah and her daughters previously lived with her mom, but the relationship was strained. Sarah left two years ago, and their relationship remains tenuous. Though she was working full time, Sarah couldn’t afford an apartment. So for a year, they lived in hotels, with families from their church, and in shelters.
“Where are we going to live next?” was a constant refrain from her older daughters, now 5 and 6.
Sarah says the instability affected their personalities and behaviors. They didn’t have many belongings, just clothes and a few toys.
“It was painful because I couldn’t provide for my kids while we were homeless,” Sarah said. “You love them so much and want the best for them. It just eats you up inside.”
The opportunity for Sarah and her daughters to live in their new home at St. Margaret’s is an opportunity for Sarah to do what’s best for her girls.
St. Margaret’s houses previously homeless families for up to two years. Parents, many of whom are single moms, have opportunities to improve their education, to find a better career path, and to reap the benefits of counseling, case management and spiritual renewal.
Sarah and her daughters are all receiving therapy from Catholic Charities’ Family Services counselors.
“My experience with counseling has been great and the girls’ behavior has definitely improved,” she said. “I had so much going on, and I just wanted to know that the girls were going to be ok.”
In their new home, the girls have their own room and a playground just out the back door. They go to childcare sessions one night a week where they play and participate in arts and crafts. Meanwhile, Sarah is in Life Skills classes learning important things like budgeting, money management and computer skills.
When they moved in, Sarah was struggling to complete the math section of her GED, so St. Margaret’s brought in a tutor to help her. Soon after she passed, she started a certificate training program, also sponsored by St. Margaret’s. Within a month of earning the certificate, Sarah found a new job in a doctor’s office.
“The staff here cares about my individual needs and helps me plan my next steps, so I can achieve my goals,” Sarah said. “This really is a safe place.”
Sarah and her family will live at St. Margaret’s for one more year while she continues to save and takes steps forward to better their lives. Sarah is hoping to start college classes to pursue a career in social work.
“My dreams are to own our family home, send my girls to college and be able to help other single moms,” Sarah said. “I didn’t think those things were possible before living here.”