Kemora is the oldest of five children in her family. She is shy, polite and speaks quietly.
It’s clear, however, that Kemora is much more mature than most girls her age. At 15, she is fiercely protective of her three younger brothers and three-year-old sister.
Kemora’s mom, Sabrina, fled an abusive partner in the spring, taking the family from Indiana to Arizona to start over. While Sabrina tried to hide her worries about finding a place to live from the kids, Kemora was keenly aware of what was happening, how dangerous living on the streets could be and how other kids might bully her brothers if they knew the family was homeless. She was particularly mindful about telling the boys not to talk about their situation around anyone, for fear the authorities might get involved.
“I was scared that if anyone knew we were homeless, DCS (Department of Child Services) would try to take us away and split us up, and we might never see each other again.”
That’s a heavy load for a young girl to carry, at an age when she should be concerned with making new friends, enjoying after-school activities and thinking about what she might want to do after high school. She has big hopes for her future, to go to college, graduate, go to medical school and become a surgeon.
Kemora did her best to keep her brothers and sister distracted when they were living in the van selling water to support themselves. She admits it was sometimes a challenge. As soon as they got a room at UMOM, the relief was almost instant.
“We are in school now and we are adjusting. There are so many opportunities there at school – I try to keep busy when I am not home or helping with the kids,” she said.
Recently, Kemora’s family was placed in an affordable unit, enabling them all to breathe a sigh of relief.
Kemora says she is excited they are no longer in a shelter, waiting for what seemed like an eternity. Nine months is a long time without a place to call home.
“I hope that we can stay here, that we don’t have to move again for a while.”