A Mother’s Courageous Journey
Like many mothers at Dayspring Center, Charlene’s slow descent into homelessness began with tragic circumstances. It was 7 years ago, she found the courage to load her five children into the car, drive out of Cleveland and leave her abusive husband of nearly 15 years behind to start a new life in Indianapolis. Sadly, a “new beginning” was further away than Charlene ever imagined.
Once settled in a low-income housing unit near downtown Indy, Charlene began the difficult, nearly impossible task of raising five children, ages 1 – 14, on a minimum wage job. It wasn’t long before life took another drastic turn. Charlene admits she began socializing with the “wrong crowd”. Soon after, she was experimenting with drugs on a regular basis. Eventually, she was arrested for drug possession but did not have to serve time. Didn’t matter. The arrest was enough to stop the landlord from renewing her lease. No family, the wrong friends, and now, no place for her and her children to live. Charlene was out of options.
In desperation, she turned to the local homeless shelters. Only one had a vacancy for a mom with 5 children – Dayspring Center. Although Charlene would say, “It was the lowest point of my life”, she would also realize it marked her “new beginning”. Over the next 60 days, Charlene would have to stay drug-free, find a job, and comply with shelter rules to keep her family together. She would make it happen. As her time to exit Dayspring Center approached, Charlene had yet to face her biggest challenge. Though a high school graduate, Charlene lacked the skill set to earn an income needed to provide for 5 children. She was an ideal candidate for a transitional housing program. Upon the recommendation of Dayspring’s Case Manager, Charlene and her children could live together in a subsidized apartment, she could work while furthering her education and, with the help and guidance of an on-site case manager, achieve her longer term goals. Knowing she would be strictly monitored and required to adhere to the policies and procedures of the program, Charlene accepted. For the next 2½ years, every day put Charlene and her family one step closer to a new life. However, seeing “the light at the end of the tunnel” was not easy. Understandably, the daily obligation of school, work and mom to 5 children was often overwhelming. On many occasions, Charlene fought the temptation to pack up and move back to the life she left behind. She credits her numerous conversations with the case manager as “life-saving” ones.
It has been seven years since Charlene began her long and difficult journey. In June 2008, Charlene graduated with a degree in nursing. She has every intention of continuing her studies to become a registered nurse. She loves where she works and will remain with her current employer, only now, in a full-time nursing position. Her youngest was 1 year old when she left Cleveland and is now 8. Her eldest is 20. “I love my kids”, she says. “They were my reason to keep going”. In the same month she graduated, Charlene did something she never thought possible… signed her name to the bank papers and moved into her own house.
Charlene is all about moving forward now, creating a healthy and loving “home”. Today, depending on yourself and having a good education are the goals she has for her children, especially her girls. “Their life will be different and I thank God and Dayspring Center for that.”