“She loved us, but she didn’t love herself enough to take care of us the right way.”
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.
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Transcript for We Beat Statistics
I would describe homelessness by it can mean you are living in the streets, you don’t have anywhere to go, or you’re living from house, to house, to house, and you don’t know when somebody’s going to kick you out, you don’t know when you might end up on the streets. When you go from couch to couch, or house to house, you have no idea when that’s going to be the last person. If there’s ever going to be any hope that you’re going to find your own place, or find a job that’s going to pay you enough money to get your own place, you just — you never know what’s going to happen. I mean, that was my family who was putting me into homeless shelters.
I lost my mom when I was seventeen, and my brother was fourteen. When we were living in Hammond, she died of cancer. We didn’t have a lot of family; we were losing the house that my mom lived in. My mom’s husband walked out on us. My brother ’s dad was a drug addict and couldn’t do much for us. Before I turned eighteen, I went to legal aid, and they were able to help me as long as my brother’s dad was willing to sign over his rights, and he was. And I took custody of my brother when I turned eighteen. And we had got some life insurance from my mom in order to get a place, pay the first year’s rent, and get him in school, and get the furniture and clothes that he needed.
It was really hard. We didn’t have nobody else. I mean, our situation wasn’t that great in the first place, considering my mom was an alcoholic and a drug addict. But when somebody looked at me and said I wasn’t going to get custody of my brother — I had to get custody of him. I didn’t want to lose my mom and my brother at the same time. It was a lot to take care of. He was a handful, especially after losing your mom — that’s a traumatic stage to go through. And I didn’t — I understood, because I lost her too, but he took it so much harder than I did, that I just couldn’t wrap my hands around it, and I couldn’t deal with it, because I had my own emotional problems, and I’m like, ‘How am I going to deal with your emotional problems when I have my own? I don’t know what to do.’ And he didn’t talk about it. He still does not talk about it to this day. He told me one time — he was like, ‘I think it was better off that Mom died.’ And I was like, ‘Why would you say that for?’ And he was like, ‘Because it made us better people.’ He was like, ‘If we would’ve stayed with my mom — our mom — then the situation might not have played out the same.’ She taught us everything not to do. That’s the way we look at it. She loved us, but she didn’t love herself enough to take care of us the right way like she should’ve. So, she taught us what not to do, and I think we beat statistics pretty well.
I had him for a year, and he didn’t listen to me so well. I had to put him on probation because he had eighty truancies in school, and at that point, he didn’t know I put him on probation. He thought that the school did it, and I was ok with that. But he looked at me, he was like, ‘Shawna, I’ m not going to listen to you.’ He was like, ‘You’ re my sister.’ It was just like two teenagers living with each other and fighting all the time. So he moved in with his friend’ s mom. And he graduated in Honors. And, he’ s a really smart kid. But I felt hurt, but I was ok, because I knew where he was going, he was going to be ok. He did a lot better. He didn’t miss that much school ever again. So, he’ s doing pretty good for himself now. I’ m very proud of him, and I think my mom would be, too.
It was after I took custody of my brother. We had our own place, but we lost it. My brother moved out, and then I went to stay with a friend, and I found out I was pregnant. And then that friend’s mom kicked me out for no reason. I was six months pregnant when she put me out. I lived with her after my mom died before we had got our own place, and I had got a little bit of life insurance from my mother after she died, and I was able to give her a lot of money at that time. So, then, when I moved out and found my own place, and we ran out of money, I moved back in with her, and we didn’t have the money no more. And, so, I was still providing food and cleaning up, and she just — it wasn’t enough. Then I moved in with my son’s father and his sister, and then she left to move to another state, so then I ended up moving in with my aunt — and this was all after I had Jaiden — and then we moved to Hammond — back to Hammond, and we lived with her, and then she put me out, and she put me in a homeless shelter in Hammond. She didn’t kick me out, technically, what she did was she said that she thought if I lived in a homeless shelter, that it would help me get on my feet faster than me living with her. So, that was her opinion of it. I’m not saying it didn’t work, but the way she approached it felt different. Because she took my stuff, and she sold it in yard sales, or took it somewhere else and gave it to other people. So, I was pretty upset. And it was my son’s stuff, too. Like, his walkers, his swings — all of that stuff, she took it, and she just got rid of it because I couldn’t come and get it because we were in a homeless shelter. We didn’t have transportation. So, I think she could’ve handled that a little bit different.