Can you imagine what it would be like to live out of your car with your baby? That’s just what Nicole did. After running away from an abusive mother and a stepfather who tried to molest her, Nicole was homeless from the age of 12. In order to survive, she had to make choices that no child should have to make. Drug use soon followed as she struggled to numb the pain of life on the streets.
When Nicole had her son, she had no place to go. For over six months, she stayed in her car most nights. Baby Samuel would sleep in the backseat, while Nicole would call people she knew to see if she could stay on their couch for a night or two. Some nights she couldn’t get in touch with anyone. The times she was fortunate enough to find a place to stay, there were so many people coming in and out, she barely slept, but at least she could take a shower and grab a small bite to eat. To feed Samuel, she had to steal formula from a local store. As a child, she never saw her life turning out like this. Many times, Nicole actually felt safer in her car. She knew the places her “friends” lived were no place for a young baby. Eventually, Samuel went to live with his grandparents, but the cycle of homelessness continued for Nicole. She’d never gotten help for her addiction, and it kept her stuck — moving from place to place, Couchsurfing, sleeping in her car. When Nicole had her daughter Kelsey, she could easily see what would happen if she didn’t change. She was staying with a friend for a few weeks when she heard about Shepherd’s Gate and called to see if there was a room for her and her daughter. Sadly, there wasn’t room, but her name was placed on the waiting list.
Nicole and Kelsey slept one night in their car. And then — the next morning — a call came from Shepherd’s Gate. There was room for both of them! Nicole remembers that the first week at Shepherd’s Gate, she slept more than she had in months. Her body and her mind were so tired. The next week, she began recovery classes, parenting classes, and counseling. Today Nicole lives with both her son and her daughter in her own apartment. She’s attending school and has a good relationship with the family members that cared for her son. Because of the generosity of people who support Shepherd’s Gate, she was able to break the cycle of abuse and homelessness for good! She’s so thankful that people like you care enough to give — you changed her life. When you think about what it would be like to live in your car, what challenges stick out most to you? Please share your ideas in the comments section below!
Carla McRee Associate Director, Shepherd’s Gate