Many of us have fallen upon difficult times or dealt with some kind of hardship in our lives.

In these moments, it’s not always easy to stay positive and pull yourself up. For Bella*, a single mother of three living in UMOM’s Emergency Shelter, her children are what keep her going, even when they were living on the streets.

Over the next three days we’re going to share with you the story of this family’s journey, and how they transformed their lives while at UMOM. Below is the first part of Bella’s story.

A few years ago, I decided to move my family from Arizona to Illinois to take care of my dad. Eventually my dad’s health started declining and he passed away. Over time my stepmom started abusing us and eventually she threw us out on the streets.

My children Aubrey, Rodrick, Elizabeth and I were homeless in Illinois for two years and would stay in an overnight shelter but were out on the streets during the day. It was the hardest time of our lives and we never knew if we’d have food to eat or a place to stay. Each day we were fighting to make it. We decided to come back to Arizona to live with family but the circumstances there were no better, and the environment was unsafe for my young kids.

We were sleeping on the streets in Phoenix and stayed at other overnight shelters, but I never had access to the help or resources I needed to provide for my family and have a safe home. I started to feel hopeless, like nothing was ever going to get better for us. But then we were directed to the Family Housing Hub and after a few weeks we got the call that there was space available for us at UMOM’s Emergency Shelter.

I was scared and nervous when we first entered the shelter, but I could tell that this was the start of a new beginning for us. From day one I was connected to community resources thanks to my case manager and the Workforce Development team.

When I was a teenager, my unstable home life and severe bullying forced me to drop out of high school my junior year. I’m so grateful that I’m finally able to complete my high school education with help from UMOM. I applied for a scholarship and was accepted into an online high school diploma program. Now, I’m a month and a half ahead of schedule in my first semester and only fifteen credits away from graduating.

Today, Aubrey is 16, Elizabeth is 15 and Rodrick is 19. They are my number one motivation to keep going every single day. I want to prove to them that if I can do it, they can do it. At UMOM I’m getting the help and encouragement I need to succeed. We’re looking forward to now getting an apartment through the Rapid Rehousing Program in the coming weeks.