by Heather Ann White
Karen didn’t drink, didn’t do drugs, and didn’t even swear when she was angry. Her road to homelessness wasn’t paved with one bad decision after another – just plain bad luck and hard times.
The 37-year-old single mom lost her home after separating from her husband and suffering from depression. She and her three teenage boys – Christopher, 19; Isaiah, 17; and Steven 15 – bounced from relatives’ and friends’ homes until they ended up at the Presbyterian Night Shelter’s Lowdon-Schutts building for women and children.
The facility, the only homeless shelter in Tarrant County that allows teenage boys to stay with their mother, helped Karen regain control of her life, she said.
“Everybody was so nice and helpful,” Karen said. “They helped me with afterschool care with my kids and they helped my deal with my depression. They were really there for me.”
Karen was able to keep her job as a full-time certified nurse’s aide and made arrangements with the Shelter for her boys to be supervised during the day.
While it was difficult for her children to adjust to the Shelter, Karen said, PNS staff helped the boys stay focused at school and encouraged that they become involved in extracurricular activities. Since coming to the Shelter two years ago, her oldest son, Christopher, has graduated high school and is now taking classes at Tarrant County Community College.
“I’m really proud,” she said. “He’s working part time and staying on track.”
Teresa Holmes, program director for the women and children’s building, said Karen set a wonderful example for other homeless women. Holmes said Karen never lost hope, worked full-time and was a great mother.
“She was very ambitious,” Holmes said. “She was the epitome of someone who was just down on her luck. She was so motivated to improve her situation – she just needed a hand up.”
Through Karen’s determination and with a helping hand from PNS staff, the family moved into a three-bedroom house in September 2008 after living in the shelter for two years.
“It feels so good having a place of our own, and the boys love it,” she said. “I had a lot to overcome. I had two evictions and bad credit – and that’s almost as bad as a felony if you’re trying to get a house, but the case workers helped me through it all.”
Karen’s ambition hasn’t stopped there. She would like to continue her education and expand her medical background to become a surgical technician.
“It’s never too late for school,” she said. “After the Shelter I feel like I can do anything now. It’s been hard living at the Shelter, but it’s been a positive experience, and I’m determined to succeed and never come back.”