The agenda for the Alliance’s upcoming National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness is packed: speakers will cover performance measurements, prevention strategies, program implementation and more, but some of our conference attendees will speak from personal experience. Valda Brown, a formerly homeless single mother of four, is one of our 2010 conference scholarship recipients. Here, she describes the lived experience of homelessness and the lessons she’s learned.
My car broke down and from that point on it was like a domino effect: I lost my jobs, my rent was behind and before I knew it, we were evicted.
My four boys and I became homeless, with nowhere to go. We had no family here, so we were pretty much on our own. I went into a state of depression, but I couldn’t act upon it as I had to be strong for my children. It was eating me up inside.
I couldn’t tell the children as they thought mommy could do everything. I had to deal with what I thought was my failure to them. I was constantly telling them to go to school and get good grades. They looked at me like “You have a college degree with no job and on top of all of that, we are homeless.”
It was a rough road. I knew I had to stay strong for my children and keep encouraging them to do well in school. My children and I both had to learn how to be more humble and grateful for what we had. During that period of homelessness, we had to depend solely on each other. I was constantly in prayer for guidance and help.
My prayers were answered by Decatur Cooperative Ministry. They provided a transitional home for me and my children and provided me with a program to talk to others going through the same situation as mine. They were very supportive and helpful. We are extremely grateful to them as they helped me heal physically, spiritually and mentally. They provided me with all the tools I needed to get back on my feet.
I learned to talk more with my children about our circumstance instead of trying to hide the struggle I was going through from them. I used to shield them so much that they were not able to recognize when I was hurting, struggling and the pain that I had to endure being a single mother.
It was an experience that we all deeply learned from and it has shown me that homelessness has no respect of person, distinctions, race, nor class. Anyone at anytime under difficult situations can become homeless. It was extremely hard going through the experience, but I am grateful of the lessons that I’ve learned from it and what it has done for me. It has made me a more humble person, open with my children, strengthened my faith, and changed what I thought of homelessness.
It has put me on the path of helping to end homelessness as I have experienced it and can empathize with others as I have gone through it.
The Alliance’s 2010 National Conference on Ending Homelessness is on February 11-12. For more information, visit the conference homepage.