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Just the Ten of Us!

The following is the transcript of the remarks made by Sharita Shannon, a former guest of the Apartment Shelter Program, at Home Sweet Home on September 29, 2022.

Good evening, my name is Sharita Shannon and I’m nervous as heck so bear with me. I like to express what the Family Promise program means to me and my children.

In 2020 I was living in a house in Lawrence area. It was in an area that we grew up around. We knew it pretty well. The kids went to the schools they knew ever since my senior was in second grade. My kids would go outside and play with their friends. They’d ride bikes, play basketball. We had a pool in the backyard, like a 16-foot one above ground.

We all have great memories there, like I remember we had a Halloween party there. All the neighborhood kids came dressed like superheroes.

Because I had a big family with nine kids and am now a single mother, I worked two jobs. About 8 to 4 I worked at a daycare. Three or four evenings a week I work as a home health aide. I would clean, cook, and run errands for people. Some clients I would have to bathe because all my clients were elderly. It was hard work, but we were happy.

What really hit was when COVID came. Everything went downhill. Everyone was staying at home, so we didn’t have a lot of kids coming into the daycare. For my other job we didn’t have clients who wanted healthcare workers in their house. I got less hours at both jobs. Plus, my kids were doing virtual school so we couldn’t leave them at home without help.

The government checks—the stimulus—helped somewhat but didn’t cover all my bills. We got behind. I had a Dodge Journey with three rows of seats for my family, but it got so bad I lost my car.

In October of 2021 they filed eviction. The judge was kind and they kept pushing the court date back because a rent program was supposed to help, but they took so long the court couldn’t hold off any longer. I had to leave the house.

Luckily a friend helped us out. We were allowed to stay at their 3-bedroom house. Though I was grateful, it felt cluttered. There just wasn’t enough space. It was uncomfortable not going to our own house every night.

I called a couple shelters. They didn’t have anything available for my family size. I tried applying for homes, but four bedrooms don’t exist, and I had the recent eviction.

I didn’t know about Family Promise, so I didn’t call until a few months later. I remember the first day I called, and Miss Jeanna answered the phone. I told her my living situation and what I had going on. She told me we don’t have anything available yet for my family size, but I can call back daily to see if anything comes open. I said ok thinking I would never get help.

Before Miss Jeanna said goodbye, she said “Hold-Up…Let me still get your information just in case something else comes up because it is unlikely other shelters will have a space for a family that size.”

I had pretty much given up hope and I wouldn’t hear back. Then Masha gave me a call about a Diversion program, and I began to work with her.

Just a couple weeks or so passed and then I finally a got a call from Jeanna saying they had a unit big enough for my family and where it was. From that day forward I have been so grateful.

At first, it was gonna be like a regular shelter setting. I was kinda hesitant. I was worried about a lot of people there, COVID, all of the different rules.

Like I didn’t know if I’d be allowed to keep my second job because my older kids couldn’t watch my younger kids.

When I met Jeanna there, the townhome was already furnished. I didn’t have to worry about getting nothing for it. It had cleaning supplies for 30 days. My kids actually liked it when they moved in. Thank you to the volunteers for donating the items. I didn’t have those things myself. I had to throw them away when we were evicted. I didn’t have anywhere to put it, and I didn’t have extra money for storage. This new place was basically ready for us to move in and have something to say that we’re going home to every day.

Since I was already working, I started applying for housing. It is very hard to find places with four or more bedrooms. But when we found one, I applied kept getting denied. Time after time denied. I have to admit I got so discouraged many times and I would call Jeanna sometimes late at night, but Jeanna would answer my questions. I kept asking Jeanna what am I going to do if they just keep denying me? But Miss Jeanna kept encouraging me not to give up and keep applying.

In the program, I had case management weekly–sometimes more. And every week we had drop off for food cards, wipes, diapers and money to do laundry. Because I thought I would be judged for having 9 children, I only told them about 8 because my 9th child was in the hospital. He was born early and had to stay until he could breathe on his own and up to weight. It’s funny because Miss Jeanna said you have what? No problem. She got approval from the landlord for my baby too. I have never been judged.

This week I moved into my new 5-bedroom home! I had been denied three times by the landlord, and the first time they said it was because of how many kids I had. But with Jeanna’s persistence and speaking up on my behalf the landlord finally accepted my application. Family Promise helped cover the move-in costs.

The older kids at my new place get their own rooms. I’m thankful that their rooms are upstairs, so they are away from us. It has a yard in the front and back. They can actually go outside and play and ride they bikes again. They can sit on the porch. They can go trick or treating in the neighborhood now that Halloween is coming up. Maybe we will invite the neighbors over for Halloween again.

For the next five years, I hope that I get to stay in this house. My oldest son graduates next year, and he’s been working hard at Rally’s and wants to be a barber. Mr. Lee tells him about the Center for Leadership Development all the time to get him to enroll. It makes me feel good when he tells me that he loves this new house.

It is because of all of you who pour into Family Promise me and my children finally have a place we can call home.

Thank you volunteers for all the stuff you provide. They are some good dishes we got! I don’t know what it is with little kids, but I don’t know what’s happened to all the forks and spoons. :)

Thank you for all the staff that has worked so hard for us, from Masha to Jeanna, Mrs. Debby and Mr. Lee. When I think of Family Promise, I think about all the good things this program has brought to me and my children.

I have hope again, and I’m grateful.

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