Lana* was laid off in March of 2015 and became homeless in May. Before coming to Hildebrand, Lana, her husband, and their daughter were placed in Emergency Assistance shelter in Central Massachusetts. “I tried to be optimistic, I wanted to follow the rules, and to go in prepared,” she said, having meticulously read rules in order to comply with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Unfortunately, however, her experience at her first shelter was extremely difficult and morally degrading.
She was placed into a scattered site apartment in a complex with other families in either scattered site or subsidized housing. “To be in a scattered site, you have to be motivated and disciplined,” Lana confessed. And she is extremely disciplined. Before entering shelter, she was always the provider of her family. She worked hard, so that her family could receive health care benefits and the like. This mindset had not changed for her. She would go out to workshops or trainings or in search of employment, to be sure she was in compliance as well as give her family the best chance to get out of shelter and into permanent housing.
Unfortunately, because of a lack of disciplined staff, she was targeted for a bad mother. They had no sign-in sheets and neglected to perform checks on the apartments regularly, which are both required by DHCD. While she was out trying to find ways to care for her family, her husband and others in her complex became complacent. She was reported on by the staff because at times they could not find her or claimed she was not following the rules. Had they kept a sign-in sheet they would have been aware of her comings and goings. “Once they came to check on me and asked me where I had been, and I told them ‘I’ve been here for two days to taking care of my sick daughter,'” she recalled, “nothing was in the system, it was a nightmare and I am really happy to be here [at Hildebrand].” The staff would threaten her and even got her daughter taken away from her, terminated her from the shelter, and got her food stamps taken away from her.
All the while, Lana discovered that she was pregnant. She was living out of her car, starving, estranged from her husband, and missing her daughter. But Lana is a fighter, and she appealed her termination, which led her to Hildebrand. She come to us on September 18th.
“I can’t pinpoint what it is…if it wasn’t for Hildebrand it could have gone the wrong way.”
She had 5 different case managers at the shelter in Central Mass, but here she was placed in congregate with Marc and a house full of residential assistants who are always willing to sit down and help. “If you could see my rehousing plan now compared to the one I had before, it does not even compare,” she noted. “I think it was my second day here, I was so happy, I was having eggs and it had been like 3.5 months since I’d had any.” People take for granted having the ability to prepare and eat food.
“It was a miracle he survived,” Lana said of her unborn son.
Every day at Hildebrand she continued to do everything she could to get permanent housing and a job. She hasn’t had a moment to sit back and watch a movie because she is out there doing workshops and trainings, going on job interviewing, and apartment hunting. Fortunately, she found permanent housing and moved into her apartment in Maynard on December 1st. She chose Maynard so she could be closer to her mother. “My mom said she’d help when the baby comes in February, so that I can I work,” she said, she has a difficult time being idle.
Advice for a family moving into shelter: “Take it all in, absorb it – one day at a time. And if you do all the right things, follow the rules, the right things will come.”
*name has been changed for confidentiality