Shaquandra was working full-time at her Birmingham-area job, often clocking upwards of 10 hours per shift. The idea of needing the help of a shelter was the farthest thing from her mind, but as is so often the case, life took a gradual, but unmistakable turn in the wrong direction. Over a period of six months she consistently saw her hours reduced and was eventually laid off.
Despite securing additional work, the single mother of five children struggled to pay the bills, and that struggle culminated with an eviction notice. When Shaquandra lost her home, she also lost virtually all of her belongings.
“People took my stuff when I was put out of my apartment because I didn’t have access to a truck,” she said.
She and her family then moved in with a close friend, but when that friend relocated to Auburn, Shaquandra again found herself facing homelessness and that’s when she turned to Jessie’s Place.
“Before [coming here] we were taking hand-me-downs from people,” she said. “The clothes were sometimes too big for my little kids, but we made it work. A lot of people treat you the way the think you are without knowing what you’re actually going through. When I came here they gave us clothes and I feel like whatever we actually need, they offer it with no questions asked.”
One of the first things that Shaquandra benefited from was a better-paying position much closer to the shelter.
“Miss Glenda in the [Stewart] Learning Center helped me find the job,” she said. “I had a full-time job, but I was driving to Pelham. I can walk to work now and I make more money working fewer hours. I’m not as tired when I get off, so I have time to focus on getting my GED.”
The Learning Center not only helps clients locate new employment opportunities, but also teaches practical skills that increase their chances of securing those positions. In addition, these skills are instrumental in helping them make the transition back to a life of independence a more successful journey.
“They teach you how to do an interview and they mock test you, which is helpful,” Shaquandra said. “Even though I’ve done interviews before, I learned there are things I didn’t even know you were supposed to do in an interview that I know now.”
Budgeting is another important topic covered at Jessie’s Place and a skill that has completely changed the way Shaquandra approaches her finances.
“I didn’t know how to budget and I never saved money,” she confessed. “Now I know how to do a budget and I even have a checking account for the first time. Before, I always spent the cash I had, now I have money in the bank and know how to save.”
While Shaquandra’s efforts at work are helping pave the way to new financial goals, the reduction in commute distance and hours on the clock are allowing for more time with her children.
“I can help them with homework and I can go to the library and run off copies if they need them,” she said. “They just like doing stuff with me and I can now because I’m not working all the time trying to make ends meet.”
Her children rise up and call her blessed… – Prov. 31:28
Shaquandra was also quick to express her gratitude to the staff which she says has further enhanced this time with her children.
“They even thought about things that I didn’t,” she said. “Like, they made sure the school bus picks them up here so I don’t have to go all the way to the school. They think ahead about the “what if’s”, both the good and the bad, and that’s been very helpful.”
Finances and family aren’t the only areas in Shaquandra’s life that have seen a dramatic shift for the better. She now attends church on a regular basis thanks to transportation provided by the shelter.
“Jessie’s Place brings you closer to God,” she said. “We have Bible studies here and the opportunity to go to church. I had always intended to go to church before, but never did. I even got baptized recently because I thought it was time for a change.”
“Me and the other women here pray together and for each other,” she added. “When we spend time together, we make sure positive things come out and we’re happy for each other when others get good news. That just makes me happy. We all come from different places, but it’s crazy how we connect.”
When asked about the future, Shaquandra revealed that she wants to continue to build on the financial skills she’s learned at the Center and isn’t going to rush what she knows will take time to unravel.
“I’m really focusing on handling my debt,” she said confidently. “Once I get some things in order I’ll begin looking for a full-time job and a place to live.”