It wasn’t the first time Sabrina and her five children had tried to flee her abusive partner. But deep down, she knew it was her last chance to leave for good.
Sabrina loaded up her kids and as many possessions as they could fit in her van and left Indiana headed to Phoenix. Sabrina’s cousin had encouraged her to come west, promising to show Sabrina around and connect her with resources to start over.
When they finally arrived in Arizona, however, her cousin didn’t pick up the phone, no matter how many times Sabrina tried to call. With little money left to pay for a place to stay, Sabrina had to think quickly about how the family would get by. With summer approaching, the desert nights were getting warmer, and even though the vehicle was roomy, it was a tight squeeze that made for an uncomfortable night’s sleep for all of them.
“It was hot, it was cramped…it was bad,” says Sabrina, when recalling those nights.
The heat did provide an opportunity to make a little money, at least temporarily. Sabrina purchased bottles of water and the family spent their days selling them to thirsty passersby. The goal was to make $80 each day to cover the cost of a hotel room, food, and enough water for the next day’s sales. Most days were successful, but if not, the family would spend the night in the van.
This went on for three months. School was not in session, and her children, ages 3 to 15, could not be left on their own in the van or hotel, making it impossible for Sabrina to get a job.
At one point, Sabrina says, she became despondent and started to lose hope that her family would ever be able to become stable. While on the waiting list for emergency shelter, she twice asked a case manager to help her get back to Indiana. He refused to send her home, knowing her safety was in danger. He told her she had come too far to turn back. A week later, she got a call from UMOM, letting her know there was a room available for her family.
The timing was spot on. Sabrina’s van broke down and school was starting, freeing up her schedule to find a job. While she had been a substitute teacher in Indiana, her credentials weren’t valid in Arizona. Instead, she took jobs through a temp agency. Her youngest children went to childcare, while the older ones went to school.
Finally, the turnaround Sabrina had prayed for was happening.
And just before Thanksgiving, Sabrina’s family was placed in their own apartment, located near public transit, grocery markets and other stores that will make it easier for her to shop for their needs, since she no longer has a vehicle.
She wasted no time finding supplies for their new home. With assistance from UMOM and other social service agencies, she was able to get beds, living room furniture, a dining table and cooking supplies to make their own meals, something they missed during their nine-month experience with homelessness.
“We didn’t have a kitchen for so long and we cook, the kids cook. I have plans for us here.”
Asked about whether she has hope now for the future, Sabrina responds that the positive turn in the last few months has been like night and day for her and the kids.
“We’ve gone from nothing to something in that time. I’m just happy the homelessness finally ended. I will do everything I can to never go through that again.
“If it had not been for UMOM, I don’t even know if I would have been alive. I’m so thankful.”