At this exact time last year, our life was ordinary, and we were happy. We lived in a comfortable, cozy apartment in South Carolina that was decorated with things we felt were special; artwork our daughter made, framed photos we hung up of our kids, my cooking and baking supplies.
And then Andi lost his job unexpectedly - along with 6,000 other people. The company he was working for closed their doors without any warning. Our lives changed overnight. With 6,000 people in our town looking for jobs, it wasn't easy to stay there.
Losing our home was incredibly emotional for us, but the hardest part - by far - was telling my 8 year old daughter. Alannah had to leave everything she had ever known, and I wasn't able to give her any good answers for what would happen next - where we were going to sleep - whether we would stay somewhere for just one night or several nights.
We packed up our car with essentials and drove to New York. I had grown up there and we had a job lined up. Getting the job ended up not being the issue; it was the cost of living. We just couldn't make it work.
We decided to come to Virginia because Andi's brother is here, and he told us we could stay with him for a little while (although he has his own issues and is not in a position to support us financially). It was fine for a short period of time, but we are a family of 4, and that's a burden for anyone.
Andi got a job working for a growing company at the airport in Virginia. We enrolled Alannah in an elementary school. Andi works all night, and I got a job cleaning during the day. We couldn't stay with his brother any longer, and didn't know what to do. We were encouraged to reach out to a local family shelter, and ultimately were able to stay there 30 days. After our time there ended, we received some support from a local church and Andi's company that paid for us to stay at an extended stay motel for two weeks during Thanksgiving. When that ended we were panicked that we would have nowhere to go over Christmas. It was unbelievable when we were invited to stay at Andi's colleague's home over Christmas while she was on vacation. The daily fear and anxiety that came with not knowing what was around the corner has been absolutely exhausting and depressing.
While we were at the shelter, they suggested that we apply for a housing program called Home Stretch, which helps struggling families go from homelessness to stability. When they contacted us after Thanksgiving to tell us that we had been accepted, we couldn't believe it was true. We waited 5 weeks for our apartment, and finally moved in on Friday.
The apartment is still bare, but we now have walls to hang the artwork that our daughter brings home from school. She will be starting a new elementary school this week, and we want her to be able to stay there. We are deeply grateful for the wonderful outpouring of support and help from this community with furniture and necessary household items, but we are still scraping by and scared of what is to come.
No child should know what its like to move around as much as our daughters have. We are both working hard to make sure that we are not in this position ever again. We hope that your support will allow us to stay here, so Alannah can go to the same school and make friends in our community. We will use the money for a downpayment on an apartment that we can call home. We are so deeply grateful for your support. God Bless all of you. -Hellen, Andie, Alannah, and Anessa.
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