“Sometimes he eats; you don’t eat. That’s just the way it is.”
This story is from the Invisible Project, a collaboration between the Welcome Project and Porter County Coalition for Affordable Housing, Housing Opportunities, Gabriel’s Horn, Dayspring Women’s Center, and Porter County Museum.
This is part two of a three-part story.
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Transcript for Truly Unconditional Love
I was nineteen when I had my son, and I just lost my mom, you know, all that other stuff, so it was really complicated. And we were homeless. We had nobody to help us. It is just so hard to bring a child into that kind of situation, to bring them into a homeless shelter, to have nobody to help you. I don’t want him to feel that he can’t depend on me. I don’t want him to feel that, you know, he has to worry about things like that. I don’t want him to feel that it’s his fault, or—even though he wasn’t old enough at the time, but babies can still feel your anxiety, they can still feel your stress, and you don’t want them to feel that way. You want them to feel like everything’s going to be ok, and they don’t have to worry, because they’re children—they shouldn’t have to worry about where they’re going to sleep at night, or what they’re going to eat, or anything of that sort.
When you have a child, that child comes first. Sometimes he eats, you don’t eat. That’s just the way it is. Even when you have a job, you only get paid minimum wage, and minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour. And depending on how many hours you get, sometimes your checks are only two or three hundred dollars every two weeks. And that is not enough to get an apartment, to feed your child, to buy diapers, to buy clothes, to have transportation, and when you live in Portage, there’s no bus transportation to get people back and forth. And most jobs won’t even give you thirty or thirty-five hours a week. Like, the Y, they wouldn’t let us work over thirty hours a week. And that was only about two hundred, three hundred dollars every two weeks, depending. That is not enough to go out there, put a down payment on an apartment, and pay six hundred dollars a month.
When we moved into the homeless shelter, Gabriel’s Horn, in South Haven—I mean, this homeless shelter was really nice. It was awesome, to be honest with you. You had your own room, had your own little refrigerator in there. The people were really, really nice. They wanted to help you. Yes, things could be complicated, having to get along with other people that you don’t know, and live with these people, and, you know, share the kitchen, and the bathrooms, and the living room. I mean, you had a curfew of nine o’clock on the weekdays and ten o’clock on the weekends. You’re allowed to have three overnights a month. You could have visitors, but they couldn’t go in your room, of course. The kids had to be in bed by eight o’clock. There was mandatory counseling that you had to do: group counseling and individual counseling. You had chores that you had to do every day before you left the house. If you didn’t come in on time, they would lock you out. And after so many write-ups, they would have to put you out. I think it was five or six write-ups, that they would say that, you know, ‘It’s time for you to go.’ They helped with transportation. The house mother—when we moved out, she took Jaiden to school for two years back and forth, and took me to work because I did not have a car. And for two years, she still helped us every single day. She would come from South Haven by his school, all the way to Portage, pick us up, take us all the way back to South Haven, and take me all the way back to Portage. Every day for two years, she did that without charging gas money. So, they were really nice people.
They had us fill out an application for Housing Opportunities, and then we were on the waiting list for about five or six months before we got our apartment. Hanging up pictures on the walls, and hanging up his crafts from school, and decorating his room, and making his room feel like it his own was probably one of the best memories because he was really excited when we started putting stuff into place, and it became his own room, with all his toys, and his pictures that he made, and was able to have friends come over and spend the night, and play with his stuff.
I think being a mom is amazing. Like, you never know how much you can love somebody until you have a child. There’s no love like it. Like, sometimes you love them so much that you just cry. There’s no love like having a child. You don’t feel that way about anybody else. That is truly unconditional love. There’s nothing like it.