After six months of staying at Project Home sites, Adele Carter and her three children are finally home.
By Sara Liegl, Director, Project Home
Every family’s journey through homelessness is different. Some journeys are short and others much longer, but all are agonizingly stressful. Homelessness by definition is traumatic; filled with loss, anger, regret, guilt, and a deep sense of powerlessness. Each day Project Home staff and volunteers walk with families every step of the way during their journey home. They do their utmost to reduce the stress of each family’s unique situation by providing a listening ear, a supportive shoulder, and simply being present.
Recently, I sat down with one mother, whom we’ll call “Adele Carter” for privacy, to reflect on her family’s journey. Now living in stable housing, the Carter family is busy getting settled, learning about their new community, and starting new patterns of daily life. Even though her family is moving forward now, Adele recalls it was not an easy path through shelter.
The family’s time with Project Home began in early Spring. After waiting several weeks on the Ramsey County emergency shelter wait list, shifting between family and friends’ homes, sometimes sleeping in beds and other times on the floor, Ms. Carter and her children finally got the call that Project Home had an opening for her family of four.
The family’s journey with Project Home included stays at seven different faith communities: Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, New Life Presbyterian, Mount Olivet Baptist, Mount Zion Temple, Cretin Derham Hall High School, Saint Matthew’s Episcopal, and White Bear Unitarian Universalist. Additionally, many other faith communities provided volunteer support at these seven host sites.
Ms. Carter remembers many wonderful volunteers, but a few volunteers in particular really made a difference in their stay. She remembers a volunteer who came several evenings throughout the month, baked cookies for all the guests, played games and read to the children. Ms. Carter said, “She made us feel like family.”
Throughout their stay, every Wednesday, the Carter family arrived late in the evening to the Project Home shelter site. They went to their own church for bible study. Although it was a challenge for Ms. Carter to budget the time and money to take her family to bible study, it was always a priority for her. “Raising my children to love and trust God is very important to me, no matter what situation we are in,” said Ms. Carter.
Each of the three Carter children celebrated their birthdays this year while they were at Project Home. Volunteers and staff made sure each child received a gift and shared cake with everyone in honor of their special days. Ms. Carter was especially thankful to have the support of everyone in shelter to help celebrate.
A Bump In the Road
Midway through summer, Ms. Carter got a call from a local housing program. Her family’s name had come up on the wait list for housing. A three-bedroom apartment became available. Ms. Carter was thrilled. They moved in late one Friday afternoon. Then, disaster struck on the very first night of what they thought would be their forever home. The Carter family woke from a fitful sleep covered in bites. The apartment was infested with bedbugs.
Deeply saddened, Ms. Carter asked to come back to shelter. We instructed her to leave everything and come right back, for, it being a weekend, intake had not filled the empty shelter beds yet. The Day Center staff helped her recover her things and sanitized everything. Again, Project Home staff and volunteers helped ease the pain of the dream dashed.
Ms. Carter remembers so many wonderful volunteers willing to listen and pray for her family during those dark days.
Home Sweet Home
A second chance came along in September. Just after school started, Ms. Carter was alerted that another apartment had become available. Volunteers at Saint Matthew’s Episcopal and several other partner faith communities stepped forward to bring her family needed household items, from kitchenware to a full bedroom set. The Carters’ new home includes a beautiful playground on the property, laundry facilities in the building, and two balconies, where Ms. Carter hopes to put a small table and chair and some plants next spring.
The family is enjoying cooking family dinners together again, and continues to spend their Wednesday nights with friends at their congregation. After a long journey, Ms. Carter is ready to look towards a bright and stable future.
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