“I just went down a wrong road and made some poor choices, but you live and you learn. I have gained respect for myself, and I feel that respect mirrored back in other people. My kids mean the world to me, and I’m glad to be able to do better for them,” said Nicole Morgan, 30, of Ypsilanti.
Homeless, Morgan had been living in her aunt’s house for about nine months with her husband, Eric, 30, and children: Jasper, 6, Haley, 4, and baby Eric who was barely 5 months old. Her husband, Eric, didn’t have a job and soon arguments about money became a daily battle.
“He never worked the whole time we were together. It was always me,” said Morgan.
Receiving state assistance at the time, her faith became troubled when she found herself not only kicked out of her aunt’s home, but also without a husband.
“We went to the Staples Center and it took a week for a space to open up for us. About two months in, Eric got kicked out of the shelter for breaking curfew,” said Morgan. “He was drunk, and had been cheating.”
Apparently, the two-year marriage had shown signs of difficulty from the very beginning. Eric wasn’t the employable type, and would not look for work actively. Still, she was beside herself when it ended.
As hard as it was without her husband there, Morgan had more pressing matters to be concerned about. The rule of the shelter was that if one family member was kicked out of the program, then the rest of the family had to go too. To Morgan’s relief, however, the Staples Center allowed her and the children stay. At that point, she truly felt as if she had lost everything.
“It was so embarrassing to me, and I was hurt that I had no other family members to take me in,” Morgan said.
Meanwhile, Jasper and Haley were still attending school in the Willow Run School District.
The shelter had a program set up where a taxi would pick up the children, and take them to school. Morgan, having no transportation of her own, was grateful and remarked that the same driver came every day, which she feels helped the children remain more comfortable.
She said the children handled everything really well. They didn’t know the shame she felt. Jasper even remembers feeling like it was fun; like being on an adventure.
“There were a lot of other kids there,” he said. “We played a lot.”
Morgan must have longed to see her next obstacle through the eyes of her child.
The limit of a familial stay in the Staples Center was only three months, so Morgan, who still had no place to go, had to move her family to another shelter. This time they would reside at Alpha House, and this is where Morgan could finally take some positive steps forward.
“It was a much nicer and more organized facility,” she said.
Alpha House had strategies that would help Morgan put herself and her children in a stable living situation. She said the staff was really supportive, and every week someone would meet with her to put together a plan and establish goals—like saving money.
“In a month’s time, I managed to save $1,000, which really helped,” she said.
After a month and a week at Alpha House, Morgan got the break she had been hoping for. The SOS Crisis Center in Ann Arbor had an apartment that would be coming available. The way a family is chosen for eligibility is through an interviewing process, in which every family residing in the shelter is involved.
“I thought, there is no way we will be chosen, but we were,” Morgan said.
It was like a weight lifted off of her shoulders, and after the initial high of making some headway, she crashed into a depression unlike she had ever experienced.
After going through the last four months of uncertainty, and working as diligently as she could to take care of her family, she had reached her breaking point. The stress had finally caught up with her. Therapy and medication became necessary for her to function.
“The toll it took on me was immense, both mentally and physically. I had to push myself, and I wasn’t eating. Everything I was doing was just a blur at this point,” she said. “But I was doing it for the kids.”
And once out of the shelter and into her coveted apartment, her life started to improve with the ongoing care of three separate social workers – one who helped with employment, one who helped with the Department of Social Services, and one who helped with the children’s needs.
“I don’t know what I would have done without them (social workers),” said Morgan. “I just felt like I couldn’t go on anymore.”
But, faithfully, Morgan has gone on, and three years later looking back at her struggle, she is grateful for her children, and the drive that they gave her to put her future in perspective.