Here is my story……..

In her words

The summer of 2009, my husband at the time and I moved from Martin to Battle Creek and bought what should have been considered a fixer-upper house.  We fought all summer with code compliance.  Part of the stimulus plan states that for every 30 houses a city tears down, they get 8 million dollars.  We’d fix things and the inspector would show up and find something else wrong. 

One day the code compliance lady showed up with CPS and said, “it’s the house or the children, but we’re taking the house.  The children and I went to my grandmother’s out of town.  My husband stayed behind squatting in the house with the dog because someone needed to be in town to apply for help and look for housing.

We weren’t overly welcome at my grandmother’s and my uncle drove us to the homeless shelter.  My husband got arrested for being in a “condemned” house.  Our dog went to doggy jail.  They tried to charge us with cruelty to animals because, in August, the dog was in a house with no heat.

Assessing the dire-ness of the situation, I made a phone call to my ex-husband.  My ex (#1) is a wonderful father.  My oldest child was the only one of my children  I could shield from the situation, and I made the decision to let his father take him.

Code Complinace  boarded up the house with everything we own inside and told us anyone caught on the property would be arrested for trespassing. 

It took 2 weeks to get my husband out of jail and into the shelter with us.  My husband was with the children and I in the shelter for 10 days and then he moved in with his new girlfriend.  Solving his own homeless problem, he left the children and I to fend for ourselves.  A week later he was considerate enough to call the phone company and have the SIM card shut off on my phone.

He left us with nothing.  I had been a housewife for 13 years.  I had no car, no house, no phone, no job skills and two little kids along for the ride.

I hold the record at the shelter for being there the longest.  The children and I were in the shelter for 4 months.  they let me stay because my life didn’t really fall apart until after I got there. 

Not exactly a “welfare person” I did sign up for welfare.  What else was I supposed to do?

The shelter encouraged me to join Woman’s Co-op, and I did, but I wasn’t really active.  I had a whole lot on my plate already and going to meetings seemed like one more thing to do. 

I signed up for many subsidy housing programs as I could think of, but time after time, they fell through.  Finally, the shelter gave me two weeks to make other arrangements, a deadline. 

Because I had been living in a homeless shelter, the welfare money had accumulated.  I knew that if I got a house or apartment, I didn’t make enough money to pay the rent and the bills both.  If I went to a hotel, the utilities would be included.  Stability.  Kind of.

I was in the hotel for 6 months.  During that time, I established custody for my children.  I’m glad I did, because at one point my husband wanted to take custody of the children because he had a home and I didn’t (wonder why, creep).  He also was kind enough to call CPS.  CPS inquired on the cleanliness of the room.  I said ” I have a maid, do you?”

I got a job in a grocery store.  Part-time, but enough to keep us at the hotel with a little extra.  I got a car. 

The grocery store I worked for is union, and they hire you in at 90 days with benefits.  Day 87, I got fired. 

I had some savings and had also signed up for hotel miles (like frequent fliers).  I went through the savings, then through the frequent flier miles.  Desperate on my knees, I ended up at a friends house.  She couldn’t keep us long, though.  Because of her lease, we weren’t supposed to be there at all.  My friend said, “have you talked to Teresa? You need to go to the Co-op that’s what it’s for.”  I followed her advice.

Teresa listened first.  She assessed my situation and even more importantly, where I was at.  I don’t know how to put that any better.  She didn’t try and change me or make me different.  She worked with me where I was at. 

Teresa had me get back on welfare and connected me with a landlord that would let me work on the house itself in exchange for the deposit.  We moved out of my friends house into HOME, finally!!  Remembering the dog, as a housewarming gift, Teresa purchased an animal in my name from the animal homeless shelter.  A fluffy, black Persian named Raven.

I had a few months to move, unpack, arrange the house, and breathe.  Whoo! Okay, get back up, start the job hunt.  Val helped me as I was job hunting, and also talked to me and brainstormed with me about possibilities.  I got a job.  Working.  Supporting my own self in my own house.

I had filed with friend of the court earlier, so the custody was established, but I didn’t know how I would pay for a divorce, so I hadn’t filed that yet.  A home, a job, a pet, time to file.  Still didn’t have money for a divorce, but found out through connecting with the other women that you can file yourself for free and there’s a low income waiver to get out of filing fees. I did the work and research, but the Co-op was there in the background.  There for free copies (a million of them) for questions, there for advice and support and hand-holding.  On my first court day, I was nervous and puking.  Quick call to Co-op calmed me down and talked me through.

Final court date for the divorce is next Monday.  People driving by comment that I have the best yard on the block.  I have roses, irises, lilies, marigolds, hyacinth and even a porch swing.  I have a sweet guy that loves me and I’m working on a project for the United Way, Ive come a long, long way, baby.

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