In a normal year, November would signal our chance to gather together at Los Poblanos, share a laugh with friends, and hear families’ courageous stories at our annual Sean Hopkins Memorial Dinner.
While we must put this event on hold this year, the hope remains, the courage of our families has not stopped, and we are more deeply connected as a community than ever. We don’t want to let the month pass without hearing the stories fueling our dedication to help families end homelessness.
This is a story from one of our mothers, “M”, about her journey from homelessness to becoming a lighthouse for others who are finding their way.
M was never given much opportunity to learn, but she is a natural teacher. Like all good teachers, she uses the lessons she learned from her challenges to inspire and guide others.
M’s childhood was riddled with drug use and instability. “I don’t think we ever stayed in a place more than 6 months”, she remembers. She was eventually placed into foster care. The move, fraught with heavy police interaction, was a foreshadowing of her poor experience in the system. At 18 she had grown up, but wasn’t raised, and entered the world unprepared to support herself and maintain a home.
She managed the best she could until the birth of her first son, who entered the world two months premature and with Down Syndrome. When they were released from the hospital, she found it difficult to find a job and living situation that would enable her to support a special needs child. She found shelter at the Ronald McDonald house but after that, she says, “it was one bad situation after another.”
In the next years she survived a series of several abusive relationships and had two more children. In her final relationship in this cycle, she stopped going to work and became utterly dependent on her partner. When he left, she slipped into deep, debilitating depression and became increasingly incapable of taking care of herself and her children.
She hit her rock bottom when the police showed up to investigate a gas leak and saw the state of her house. CYFD immediately took custody of her kids and she was sent to jail. “Those two days were the worst days of my life. I had no idea where my kids were or if I would ever be able to see them again.”
Though traumatic, those days gave her precious perspective. Upon her release, she worked with CYFD to create a safety plan so she could maintain custody of her kids. She vowed to never place her kids in such a dangerous situation again and took steps to change.
The first thing on her list was to find a safe place to stay, which she found with our community partner, Barrett House. She was told about Saranam on the first day of her stay and applied. The interview was the most nervous she’s ever been, but the compassion showed by the staff and other families reassured her that she would have the support she needed to get through. She was so thrilled when she got word of her acceptance, she accidentally hung up. “I was fit to be tied!”
M has finally found stability at Saranam. Now she spends her days going to school, taking care of her physical and mental health, and playing with her kids. She has even found that the move to online classes has given her more time to be a mentor for first-year families, helping them navigate things she was never taught as a child, like laundry and time management.
Her attachment to the Saranam community, she says, has been one of the biggest surprises at all.
M has channeled her natural talent for teaching into a high-demand career as a special education teacher. After years of working with her son, she knows every child has the potential to thrive and she wants to help them find a way to use their unique gifts. She is working closely with the TRIO program at CNM to transfer to UNM for a four-year degree.
Her true happiness, as always, is in her children. They have grown so much in their time at Saranam. They now take pride in keeping their rooms clean and happily go to school, knowing that home will be waiting for them. She knows her steps forward will continue to teach her kids.
“For the first time,” she says, “my kids are proud of me. They see that I can do it, so they can do it.”
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