Kaylee’s Pathway

When I was 14, everything changed. My family was torn apart by the cycle of addiction, poverty, and violence. Neither of my parents were in the picture. My sisters and I also lost touch. I was alone.

Kaylee Neslusan and her twin girls. Kaylee is a former resident at St. Mary’s, now out on her own (Photo Credit: Neslusan Family Photo)
Kaylee Neslusan and her twin girls. Kaylee is a former resident at St. Mary’s, now out on her own (Photo Credit: Neslusan Family Photo)

 

I bounced between friends’ homes, going to school, and working 40 hours at night. I was determined to graduate high school, studying at work. And I did graduate on my 18th birthday!

 

I went to Larboure College for nursing, and kept working full time. During my first year of college I met my best friend and my other half, Pedro.  I never believed in love, and I certainly never believed that someone would stay with me forever. He’s here with me tonight!

 

In 2007, I was promoted to Regional Network Trainer. The job paid well, so I dropped out of college, and Pedro was making good money working construction.

 

“We were in love. We had a house, and we felt we didn’t need anything else except a family. On March 24th, 2011 we had our twin daughters, Angela and Arianna. I was the happiest I’d ever been.”

 

But soon everything in my life changed again. Pedro was born in the Dominican Republic, and he was brought here when he was six.  Because of his immigration status, he lost his job when the girls were two. It became impossible for us to keep our heads above water. We lost everything.

 

We stayed with friends and family as long as we could.

 

In September 2014, my girls and I were placed at St. Mary’s Center. My DTA worker handed me the letter and said I was the luckiest person in there. Because of Pedro’s immigration status, we felt it was too risky for him to apply for shelter.

 

I was at the lowest point in my life. My daughters didn’t understand why we couldn’t go home and why their father wasn’t with us. I never felt more helpless or scared.

 

I thought I knew what homelessness looked like, but I was wrong. It comes in all forms, ethnicities, and backgrounds.  I lived in Margaret’s House in my own room with my girls. On my floor there were 25 other moms and anywhere from 25-50 children. We were nervous, but the staff helped us settle into the place we would call home.

 

I was concerned how my children would adjust. The truth is children always adjust faster than we do. They don’t have a jaded view of shelter.

 

Of course, my girls had their rough days, and the staff were always very supportive. Every morning Mary, who works at Margaret’s House, would style Angela and Arianna’s hair. Every day when the girls are getting ready, they still ask for Mary. At Margaret’s House, my children did well, made new friends, and got into one of the best pre-schools. I was very proud.

 

It was my turn to provide for us.  With the help of the staff, I started working again. I started working on myself, too–taking cooking classes and yoga offered by St. Mary’s. I made great friends.

 

I was voted in as representative for my floor on Margaret’s House, which included advocating for families and help planning events for the Moms and kids, and for some of the Dads, too. I loved being able to help, and it made me feel better, too.

“It was a big family. We all had the same goal—to have a better life. For every woman that means something different, but there was never an issue or barrier that hadn’t been overcome by a woman before you.”

Eighteen months later, with help from my St. Mary’s case manager and housing worker we got permanent housing. It was great news, but bittersweet.  We would miss our friends and the staff. But it was all sweet for Pedro. He was so happy and relieved not to depend on anyone anymore.

“In January 2016, we moved into our new apartment with nothing, and we didn’t care at all! St. Mary’s helped us get some of the basics, and we’ve never been more grateful for what we’ve received. We were finally—all four of us—together!”

I still go to St. Mary’s Center five days a week for the Women@Work Plus program.  They provide me with support, training, and opportunities to go back to college and build a career. St. Mary’s also helped me get my girls a scholarship to Saint John Paul Catholic Academy.

 

Today, Angela and Arianna are 5. They are well-adjusted, intelligent, and so kind. With the tools that St. Mary’s has given my family, Pedro and I can make sure that our children become everything they’re destined to be.  While Pedro and I still have a long way to go, we are miles away from where we used to be, and for that we thank the staff, the families, and everybody who supports St. Mary’s!

-Kaylee, Margaret’s House former resident and Women@Work Plus graduate, 2016

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