For Renee Williams, struggling with homelessness was like chasing the flicker of a light on the horizon with only shadows to guide her steps. She stumbled through obstacles: evictions, empty bank accounts, a strained co-dependent relationship with her husband, and a nomad existence as she parented her two children. It was a chaotic way to live, and she felt an intense depression gnawing at her every time she opened her eyes in the morning.
“I never lived in one place more than a year,” Renee confesses. “We lived in apartments but eventually would be evicted because we couldn’t afford the rent. My husband had his personal demons and struggled to keep work. Then he was sent to jail. He had been our sole provider.”
After that, Renee lived in motels and at the homes of friends. “It was agonizing – the constant search for a bed to sleep in. There was no peace. I cried every night, weeping away the fear and worry.”
Renee didn’t know how to budget, and she was drawn to credit cards as a stopgap to provide for her children. “That period of time was brutal,” she says. “I was living meal to meal, and I struggled to find a stable job, anything that could pay some money to put food on the table for my children.” Homelessness was like a numbness, a chronic cycle of desperation that washed over her daily and became so familiar she couldn’t escape.
No matter how bad things seemed, she tried to remain positive for her kids. “My children are so important to me. They have always been my top priority. I try to be calm around them so they don’t panic.” Thankfully, her friends kept an eye out for her and her children, and Renee would depend on them for a cash advance when she was desperate.
It was a friend who told her about A New Leaf’s La Mesita Family Emergency Shelter. Renee had become despondent moving from place to place, and she was eager to find stability. Renee made contact with the shelter, and a staff member helped her apply for a unit. Within days, she was accepted into the shelter. Renee moved in to safe, secure apartment, accompanied by her 16-year old son Dan and 5-year old daughter Sadie.
It was the miracle they had been searching for. “My kids were so relieved and thrilled. We all became so emotional when we opened that door at La Mesita. What a blessing!”
Renee was grateful that La Mesita was peaceful, welcoming environment for her kids. Within days, she was learning how to put together a resume and began applying for jobs. A New Leaf provided clothes for her interviews. “I finally felt confident of my looks,” she confides. “The workforce staff prepped me for the interviews, and made sure I had everything prepared. They were like my family helping me through everything.”
Renee says that the secret to her success was La Mesita’s comprehensive services. It was the foundation she needed. She was able to save money. She was able to find a job. Daycare and after school programs helped her attend to her children’s needs. She enrolled in a credit counseling course on campus and was able to pay off a $2,000 eviction fine, and reduce her credit card debt.
Best of all, A New Leaf’s Rapid Rehousing program helped Renee find a permanent apartment after she completed her stay at La Mesita’s Family Emergency Shelter. The family moved into a safe, clean apartment near Renee’s new job. Her son exclaimed, “I don’t have to take my poster down now every time we move. I get to stay here!” Just as important, Dan was accepted into A New Leaf’s East Valley After School Program and was approved to receive counseling with a kind-hearted therapist at A New Leaf’s Counseling Center. Dan’s anxiety over moving constantly and fearing the future is gradually subsiding now as his family begins to thrive in their new home.
Renee still gets frustrated, but her hard work is paying off. “I feel so blessed. Even when I’m feeling a little down, I say a prayer of thanks, and I feel empowered to keep striving.” Renee says that God is a great source of strength to her family. Now she has a caring network of people at her church who help motivate her to stay strong and believe in herself.
“I look back at how far I’ve come, and I am astonished,” says Renee. “From homeless with only a bag of clothes to my name and now living this brand new life – it’s a total transformation. A New Leaf has been there for me every step of the way. I am so grateful to all of the caring staff and volunteers at A New Leaf. I will always consider them my family.”
Please consider helping other families like Renee’s. Your gift to A New Leaf will have a ripple effect that spreads through families, neighborhoods and communities to impact countless lives. Our donation page is one click away. Please donate today! We will be so grateful.