At just 26 years old, Ashley has faced more hardship than most people her age. Her early childhood was marked by abuse and constant evictions until at age 12 she was removed from her home and adopted by her aunt. Despite her challenges, Ashley earned a college degree, had a job and her own place, and was devoted to her two young children.
Until she tried to move to a new apartment … then everything fell apart.
“There was an eviction on my credit record connected to my mother, and it was too late to get my apartment back. Even when I paid off the debt, a lot of places wouldn’t take me.”
For the next 10 months, Ashley and her children were homeless. She was able to have family members keep the children for some of the time. The separation was difficult but Ashley did all she could to be there for her son and daughter.
“I’d work all day, drive 60 miles round trip to see my kids, help them with homework, tuck them in bed and tell them everything would be okay. Then I’d head back and stay wherever I could – friends’ places, motels, sometimes in my car . . . I was worn out.”
At Families Together, Ashley found the compassion and help she needed. “I didn’t know what to expect, but my Mentor Advocate made me feel very welcome. I was comfortable talking to her about everything that was going on with me.” On the day she finally moved back into her own place, “I took two days off from work and just slept.”
Today, Ashley feels more confident and is determined to be the best possible parent. “I’ve learned a lot. But I feel I needed this experience to truly find myself.”
In the Families Together program, Ashley received help with budgeting, repairing her credit record, finding an affordable apartment and paying for her deposit. Volunteers provided Thanksgiving meals and Christmas gifts. “Anything I needed, they helped me.”
Memories from her own childhood made Ashley afraid to reach out for help. “I was scared that if someone found out we were homeless, they would take my kids.” A friend who had been helped by Families Together urged her to call. “I’d never been in any kind of program before and to be honest,
I was embarrassed. But I had to put my pride aside.”
Her advice to other parents experiencing homelessness is simple and direct: “It’s scary. But you have to get help and have someone in your corner. Don’t try to do it on your own – think about your kids.”