Latrena Martin drove from Texas to Atlanta with her three children and the promise of a new start. She had accepted a full-time job and had an apartment lined up. But upon her arrival to the city, the job offer was unexpectedly rescinded, and her apartment was not ready. The family stayed in a hotel, but then money ran out and the apartment fell through too. Within two weeks of her arrival to Atlanta, her family was in the scary situation of sleeping in their car in a parking lot.
“People think that homelessness can’t happen to them,” said Noelle Owen, director of family preservation services at The United Methodist Children’s Home. “But imagine the devastating consequences of several bad things happening in a row: a family member has serious health issues, you lose a job, or your spouse dies and you haven’t planned financially. Homelessness could happen to any of us.”
Latrena had applied to the Children’s Home Family Housing Program, and thankfully there was an almost immediate housing availability. She was able to move in within days.
The Home provides a safe, comfortable home for families at risk of homelessness, giving them key support so they have a stronger chance to succeed on their own. Staff advocate for the family, as well as provide emotional, budget and employment counseling. Families typically stay at the Children’s Home for six to 18 months, until they achieve mutually agreed upon goals such as obtaining a professional license, and have developed a long-term plan for self-sufficiency.
“Our first night at the Children’s Home, I felt so relieved. A huge burden had been lifted,” said Ms. Martin.
With a secure place to live, she could focus on furthering her education – she enrolled in cosmetology school – on paying her bills, and on her children. For someone like Latrena, who had never been in a situation of needing assistance, it also was a sobering experience. But she knew she was at the home because she needed help to get to the next level.
And she did.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Ms. Martin. “There were times of struggle, but I kept pushing forward. Those of us in the program helped each other out, for example when daycare wasn’t available and I needed to go to a job interview.”
In July 2014, Latrena gave notice to her case worker at the Children’s Home that she would be leaving. She had received her cosmetology license, accepted a new full-time job and secured an apartment.
“I didn’t want to be given an exit date, I wanted to do it on my own,” she said, smiling.
How did she feel the first night at her new home? “Ecstatic,” she said.