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Before I came to the Friends Association, I was pretty overwhelmed and lost. About five months before, my two daughters and I suddenly left an unsafe living situation. Having just gone back to work the day before after being a stay-at-home mom for seven years, I had no money saved. I had no family in the area. My only option was to crash on a friend’s couch. I was working part-time and I had no idea how I was going to be able to afford a place of my own.
Local government officials referred me to Friends Association. Within a month, I was in my own two bedroom apartment in a safe area. For the first time since I left my home I felt hopeful that things were going to turn out all right.
I went from working part-time to full-time. I learned how to budget my money while ensuring that my daughters have everything they need to grow, such as healthy food to eat and clean clothes to wear.
My year receiving rental assistance with the Friends Association recently ended. The scariest part for me was writing my first rent check where I was responsible for the full amount. I had moments where I asked myself if I could really do this on my own. But we all face moments in life where we need to take a leap and have faith that everything is going to turn out fine. For me, writing that first check was my leap. I know that I am ready to be solely responsible for my rent, and just need to keep budgeting, save where I can, and cut out things we really don’t need.
Reflecting over this past year, I am grateful for the assistance I received from Friends Association. Friends Association relieved a lot of stress from my life, making a negative and scary situation easier for me to deal with.
A few years ago I found myself with no place to live for me and my son. I had no job. I was at the lowest point in my life. I was provided with a list of shelters in Chester County, and began calling each one. A day later I received a call back from the Friends Association to come in for an intake appointment.
I was nervous, scared. I never had to live in a shelter before. They helped me tweak my resume and apply for jobs. Wings for Success supplied me with clothes for my interview and for my new job. That new job? I just celebrated my two year anniversary there.
Friends Association is not just a shelter. It was a stepping stone for me and my family and taught me how I could be the best mother to my son. They helped me when I had nothing and changed my life by giving me the tools and confidence to make it on my own.
I lived with my mom for nine years and then her house went into foreclosure. I had two weeks to pack up and find a place for me and my two toddlers, ages one and two. My mother was losing her home and that meant we were losing ours too.
I called looking for shelter but everything was full. I was referred to the Outreach to Homeless Families Case Manager. She helped us find an apartment we could afford. I work full-time as a billing clerk at a local hospital and my boyfriend was working part-time detailing cars. We were doing okay and saving a little money but then my boyfriend was arrested and locked up. Without the second income I could not pay rent so Friends Association helped by paying a portion of the rent. Without their help my boys and I would be homeless again.
It felt so good paying for my first apartment on my own. With Friends’ help and their programs to teach me budgeting skills, I know that I can do this by myself again. I feel grown up and responsible. Friends Association is giving me the confidence to do things on my own. I struggle with time management and getting bills paid on time, but I’m learning how to keep on top of that.
I never knew there was the sort of help that Friends Association offers. Two years ago I donated winter clothes and coats that my son had outgrown hoping they would go to a family in need. A couple of weeks later I received a thank you note and a brochure from Friends. After reading it, I realized they offered the exact help that my son and I needed.
I was working full-time but was coming back from a layoff and had fallen behind in rent, childcare, and well, just about everything and couldn’t seem to get ahead. Friends Association stopped the eviction process, helped me get organized and taught me how to manage my money. I was so proud the first time I paid all of my bills on my own! I lived two years successfully but last year I lost my job after being hospitalized during a mental health breakdown. I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and now have the medicine and therapy that I need to climb back up. Friends was there that time too and helped me get back to work, part-time at a roofing company. I go to the job sites after the crew leaves and make sure everything is picked up. It is on my own schedule and time. If I am having a bad day I can work alone and manage my illness.
My youngest child, Erikah, and I lived with several relatives after I left Chicago. Some were kind to us, but most were not. One relative let us stay with him, but never let us forget that we were in the way. When it became unbearable, I returned to Chicago, but my previous eviction record followed me, and landlords were unwilling to give us another chance. This time we stayed with a family member that I particularly admired. He asked us to leave after a few weeks and I was both devastated and homeless.
The next part of my journey was both positive and negative. I moved into a friend’s house in Chester County. Unfortunately, her brother lived there also and he was heavily involved with drugs. As a mom I knew my daughter could not be in that environment, even if it meant losing the roof over our heads.
The positive part was that I called Connect Points and was referred to Friends Association. When the Shelter Manager called to admit us into the shelter, I couldn’t stop crying. I thought that being in a shelter meant that I had failed my daughter.
Now that I’ve been living at the Shelter for a few weeks, my perspective has really changed. This is just what my daughter and I needed. My case manager has connected me with local resources to address my health issues, my financial challenges, and I’m receiving help to revive my career. For us, living in a shelter is a bridge to a better life. And there is no shame in seeking a better life, especially when you have a child.
I didn’t wake up one day and say, “I want to be a drug addict,” but that is what happened. I have struggled with addiction for half of my life. My addiction and mental illness have destroyed everyone around me, hurting my kids, my family, and my life. I’m totally cut off from my parents and I feel like it is just me and my husband against the world.
I’ve been in and out of rehab, on methadone for six years and was even sober for two. I was in treatment when I was pregnant with both of my children and even though they told me I should terminate the pregnancies, I just couldn’t do it.
After my second son was born, my doctors tapered down my methadone dose and I started using again. I left my husband and our boys and ended up in a drug den and in an abusive relationship; I was hospitalized three times for trying to commit suicide. I was homeless, drug addicted and didn’t know what to do. Then my husband started using again and I just knew I had to be there for my kids.
I’m back in treatment and have been clean for nine months. My husband was also able to get back in treatment and we are back together with our kids. My husband is working and I am trying to get assistance with childcare so that I can get back to work too. I went to cosmetology school and Friends Association helped me get the books I need to study so that I can pass the state licensing exam. I don’t want a million dollars. I just want a stable home. I want to work and watch my kids grow up.