Caroline’s Story. She is 41 years old.
My journey to homelessness began when I took my children and left my abusive husband and rented an apartment in 2010. I was employed by a public school system during this time. In April of 2012, I was terminated due to absences resulting from mandatory court dates for my divorce proceedings. I was then evicted from my apartment on June 1st—no income, no rent. My child support payments had not come through yet.
One of my friends offered to let us stay in her home. The arrangement was that I would cook and care for her children. This lasted only a week because my friend wanted “rent” money in addition to my services. Since I had no money coming in, I had to leave. We stayed in the car for a night. I sold some possessions to get the price of one night in a hotel room. Then my advocate found us a spot in a shelter where I could stay for 30 days. I spent all of those 30 days looking for work—all day, every day. When the time expired, I had not found a job, but was granted an extension.
When I was with my ex-husband, he was extremely controlling to the point of giving me an allowance and making me account for every penny. I didn’t know how much money he made until he had provide a pay stub for court. The house had to be spotless and everything in its place according to his plan. He controlled our lives in every way he could.
The shelter rules, while necessary, brought back all that anxiety. I felt diminished. I saw no compassion for the residents. All medications were locked up—a good thing—but the schedules for administering them were not necessarily according to the needs of the clients. Residents shared chores at the shelter. This was expected and reasonable. The chores were rarely performed acceptably, and no one was held accountable. Sanitation became a huge issue for me because I had always taken the best care of my house and my children.
Safety turned out to be a problem. Some residents lied about their situations to get into the shelter. People with mental health problems lived there. Some of them became more than disagreeable, started fights, and threatened physical violence. Soon after this I got a job and left the shelter. Making my own decisions and being free again was a great feeling.
After this, I got a job and moved to my present home. By this time, it was August of 2012. I am holding my own. It’s not easy, but I have no regrets. The freedom is worth it. I look at it as making the best of a situation. I don’t feel bitter.
This experience has taken a huge toll on my children. Their education was interrupted and they have lived through traumatizing situations. We had to move away from a small community to a much larger one, so there have been many new experiences and adjustments.
Still, it was worth it to be in charge of our lives and safe.
This story originally appeared in Facing Homelessness in Fort Wayne, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Lutheran Social Services and the Office of the Mayor in Fort Wayne, Indiana.