Julie’s ex used to hit her. He didn’t even care if she was pregnant, he still hit her. He would make her call him and stay on the phone during her entire commute home. If she accidentally placed her ringer on silent, she would find he had called her dozens of times.
“I thought he would change,” Julie says. “I forgave him.”
At the same time, he would refuse to contribute to essentials like gas or utilities. Her job at Target did not cover the rent and yet her ex refused to contribute unless she “deserved it.”
Finally, Julie became fed up. She told him to leave. He refused. “I was tired of the kids seeing us fighting,” she says. (Julie has four children ages 10, 9, 4, and 3). She worried her boys would think it was okay for men to hit women. One asked her ex, “Please don’t kill my mommy.” He grabbed the phone to call the police and her ex grabbed his little arm and yanked the phone from him. That was the breaking point for Julie. She grabbed their things and left.
She had nowhere to go since her mother’s house was completely full so she and the kids slept in her car, in the cold, staying out all day while the older kids were at school. “You get lonely,” Julie says of being single. “You want someone to rely on.” She credits the kids for getting through that time: “I think I would’ve killed myself without them. It was just too much to handle.”
Finding an apartment for a single mother and four kids on just one check proved extremely difficult for Julie. A friend of hers introduced her to the Whole Child, a local Whitter nonprofit that works with families. They placed her at the Salvation Army for six months and helped her obtain a Section 8 voucher, allowing her to rent an apartment in Whittier where Julie grew up. Her kids now attend Whittier schools just like she did. Julie is grateful for this as otherwise she would have to spend all her time scraping by and fighting to stay in housing.
She thinks most people have no conception of what being homeless is like. “People think they’re homeless because they deserve it,” she says, echoing the words her abusive ex would levy against her when he refused to help her with the rent. “It’s not just because people don’t want to work,” Julie affirms. “There are a lot of different stories.” Being homeless isn’t glamorous either. She should know. “When you’re homeless, all you do is worry,” Julie explains. “There’s no fun time, no time with the kids, just worrying.”
Julie is now enrolled in Imagine Whittier, a program that pairs homeless and formerly homeless people with mentor families. This allows her children to go fun places and participate in activities while she, for instance, works overtime. She wants to be a mentor herself eventually. At a recent, Whittier Consortium on Homelessness meeting, Julie spoke about her experience, breaking into tears. “I just felt I needed to talk about it,” she says.
Reprinted with permission from In My Back Yard.