Jessica Loves September 24
by Dan Gregory, Strategic Communications Manager
September 24 will always be special for Jessica.
On that day, her son exclaimed, “It’s 5 o’clock, mama, and we don’t have to go anywhere. We get to stay right here!” On September 24, 2010, Jessica moved out of temporary shelter (and its 5p.m. check-ins) and into her own apartment with her two sons. It was a day that changed her life.
When her sons were only four and two, Jessica found herself with a car, a few bags of belongings, and no place to go. She was running out of gas and running out of money when she met with a case manager at Families Moving Forward. The first meeting didn’t get her the answer she was looking for: the program director was out, and it might be a few days before she’d know if she’d be accepted. “I left wanting so badly to have a place for my boys. I drove up to the corner store, got a pop, and cried,” she said. With nowhere to go, Jessica decided to drive back to Families Moving Forward. “I asked Kate [the case manager] if I could at least park my car in the parking lot overnight. It would be a safe place. I could figure things out if I just had a safe place.” The answer surprised her again, but this time in a different way: she could stay. “I was so relieved that I could stay in the parking lot, but no! Kate told me I could stay as part of the program. They had moved fast to get things figured out.”
That was in early June. In early September, another surprise came her way. After months of searching for a home, Jessica learned her application had been accepted at Audubon Crossing, a Beacon property with some support services available through Families Moving Forward. And on September 24, keys shaking in her hands – whether from excitement or nerves, she wasn’t quite sure – Jessica stepped through the door at her new place for the first time. And at 5 o’clock, it sank in for her oldest: they were home.
Nine years have flown by. The boys are a little taller now, and 5 o’clock often comes and goes unnoticed in their busy lives. Lives centered in the joy of home – their own home.
While living in supportive housing, Jessica has grown in her career and in her confidence. “I’ve really come to believe in myself, and know I’m not alone,” she beams. She meets with an advocate on a regular basis. “They give me a listening ear, they’ve become a trusted presence,” she reflects. “They help connect me to resources for me and my boys.”
For Jessica, having supportive housing means stability. It means she can afford to invest in her boys’ school and give back to her community. And it means she doesn’t have to worry whether it’s 5 o’clock or September 24: she doesn’t have to be anywhere except right here unless she wants to. Nine years later, that still feels like a huge change in her life.
For too many families, the wait to find an apartment they can afford is getting longer and longer. Families like Jessica’s look around, needing support services to help them move forward, and they don’t see any options. Many are forced to stay longer in shelter programs like Families Moving Forward, meaning other families can’t even enter the program. Building more supportive housing for families could provide relief across the board for less than the cost of keeping someone in homelessness or temporary shelter. Together, we are creating supportive housing for families like Jessica’s so there can be more life-changing September 24ths – and May 1sts and June 16ths and December 2nds.
To get involved, call (651) 789-6260 and ask to speak to a member of our Advancement Team about making a gift, or a member of our Congregational Organizing and Engagement Team about actions your congregation can take.