In October 2018, we lost the lease on our townhouse due to an unforeseen emergency. We stayed with friends for a time while searching for housing and looking for help from agencies. After we left our friend’s home, we stayed in a hotel for as long as we could afford. It wasn’t long before we were out on the street.

While we were moving our belongings into a storage unit, we met a UMOM Case Manager who told us about the shelter and supportive services that were offered to those experiencing homelessness in the community.

There were two beds available at the Halle Women’s Center – one for my daughter and another for me. When we arrived, we were made to feel welcome, wanted and valued. What a relief after being treated poorly by many due to our homeless situation! I soon learned that the people experiencing homelessness are not all addicts or individuals who are too lazy to find a job. They were people like us.

My husband Jay was at a shelter where he felt unsafe, so he returned to the streets. His experience was unlike the one that Casey and I were having at Halle. My daughter and I were able to be in the same room so that I could help with her emotional and medical issues.

Throughout our stay we were supported physically – I was given a handicap accessible room due to my physical limitations. We were supported emotionally – our case managers and all staff members were always providing words of encouragement, listened to our struggles, and guided us to resources. We were provided means to succeed – through UMOM and the VA Center, my husband found coordinated services so that we were able to receive the most help possible in reuniting as a family.

It was a brief two months before we had a new home again as a family; an amazing and successful transition from homelessness to sharing our own home together.

Things that I learned while experiencing homelessness:

  • Homelessness can and does happen to anyone. You can be educated or not, you can be working or unemployed, you can have a loving family or be the victim of domestic violence and abuse. It can happen to you.
  • Homelessness can be scary. When you are faced with the reality of not having a place to sleep, it’s hard to see where to go next. When we first sought help, many did not know where to guide us or treated us as unworthy of support.
  • There are some shelters that offer a bed, but nothing else. Shelters where you are required to leave during the day or felt unsafe staying around others. UMOM offers people dignity, privacy, and normalcy while residing in shelter and receiving supportive services.
  • UMOM gives people a hand up, not a handout. We were prepared to end our experience with homelessness and equipped with the knowledge and tools we needed to prevent the experience from happening again.
  • The help that we received at UMOM was given to us freely, openly, and even joyfully. The staff members are dedicated to ending homelessness – not putting a band-aid on the issue. We had access to a safe room of our own with a door that locked, three hot meals a day, and had people working with us and advocating for us.
  • UMOM is truly a blessing. The staff care about the people and the work that they do. Volunteers and donors ensured our experience was smooth with donations of meals, clothes, toiletries, spiritual support, and even pet food.

Never in my life did I ever think that I would become homeless, but it happened to me – an educated woman, married for 34+ years. Anything from health issues, emergencies, or a stroke of bad luck can lead to someone experiencing homelessness. It was a blessing in disguise to be able to share this experience with individuals from all walks of life. The lifelong friendships formed at UMOM were astounding and enriching. I learned about an issue in our community that I wasn’t aware of. There is a lack of affordable housing in this community and having help creating a housing plan, finding a place to live, and support for our deposit was essential to ending our homelessness.

Because of UMOM, I am a better person, a better nurse, a better professor, and helped me find compassion for the homeless. It has been uplifting to work with, be with, and be helped by the special people at UMOM New Day Centers.

Today, I have defended my dissertation and have started research to complete my doctoral program at Grand Canyon University. My husband and daughter are healthy and well. We’ve established new traditions in our home and celebrated traditions we were unable to in previous years. Today, we are home.

Gratefully,

Lori H.