Written by: Bre Hayden
When childhood and early adult life is spent in cycles of constant chaos, it takes bravery, faith, and a community of people who believe in your ability to succeed for transformation and healing to occur.
Jen has always described herself as a “wanderer.” For most of her life she experienced housing instability and as an adult would drift from one place to the next. She met her partner, Pat, at a homeless shelter in the midwest. With Pat also having an adventurous spirit, the couple traveled the nation while living out of their car, in motels, staying with friends and family, utilizing various shelters, and surviving anyway that they could. “Through the years I learned survival skills, that’s for sure,” Jen stated.
When Jen found out she was pregnant in 2018, the couple began one of their most daunting journey’s ever: creating a path of stability for their unborn child. This landed them at Family Promise of Spokane, one of the only emergency housing programs in the Inland Northwest that accepts the entire family, including pets. They stayed at Family Promise’s emergency housing program based out of Richard Allen Court for 3 months before moving into a transitional housing program in Spokane. Sadly, it was not the right fit for them. The rigid program structure and inability to bring their 2 dogs into the apartment caused them to leave shortly after entering the program. They then moved to Oregon to be near a longtime family friend. Pat worked construction for a while, they saved up some money, bought a $300 1998 Chevy, and were off on their next adventure.
“We've been to 520 cities in the past 6 years,” Jen explains. “We’ve been homeless for most of Zuri’s life.”
And yet, of all of the places Jen’s family has explored, 4 years after their first experience with Family Promise, when they were ready to settle, they came back to Family Promise of Spokane. “We were ready to fight for stability for our daughter,” Jen describes, “and we knew that Family Promise would accept ALL of us and be there to help.”
Family Promise Staff worked closely with the family and helped them overcome their barriers to housing. Months after coming back to Family Promise of Spokane for the second time, the family now has their own place to call home. Zuri has her own room filled with all the toys and books a 4 year old could imagine. “It’s amazing having our own house and not having to deal with shelter life,” Jen reveals. “Plus, our dog has a huge back yard to roam around in.”
With their own home, Jen has the space to teach Zuri all of the life skills she wasn’t taught growing up. “The biggest transformation I’ve seen in Zuri is a sense of independence. Just last week she helped me do the dishes.”
Jen and Pat will always be venturesome at heart, but now, as they are expecting their second child, they won’t be drifting from place to place, “Before we ever move again, we are going to make sure that we have another house lined up.”
Breaking generational cycles takes time and doesn’t always happen in a linear fashion.
If Jen could impart one piece of advice to anyone experiencing housing instability, she’d let them know, “Come to Family Promise, and hold on to every ounce of hope you have.”