By Michelle Kingston
To Whitney Molina, being homeless meant living on the street, holding up signs and sleeping in cardboard boxes.
It was a scene she never thought she’d have to be a part of, growing up in a stable home in Springfield.
After giving birth to her son, she was forced to leave her parents’ home due to his chronic asthma. The conditions of the home not suited for his medical needs.
“I was in a dark place,” she said. “Scary. I grew fear and thought, is this it?”
Massachusetts is the only right to shelter state in the country. After being put on long waiting lists for low-income housing, she moved into a state shelter in a local hotel.
She spent two years in a hotel in Chicopee. Thankful for the roof over her head, but feeling like she had failed, Whitney said she had no wait out, the way some of the other 1,200 families living shelters across the state also believe.
Of the 1,200 families in homeless hotels in the state, 20 of them are in Chicopee. Thirty families are in Greenfield hotels, 37 families are in Holyoke hotels and 23 families in Springfield are in hotels. Of those families, the state reports 286 children in western Massachusetts are living in a single room with their families.
After about a year in this dark, unstable situation, Whitney came to a realization when playing with her son.“I look into his eyes and I just realized how much he needed his mother and how much he needed his mother to be strong and how much he needed his mother because he depended on his mother no questions asked,” Whitney said. “I was determined. I said this is not the end of the road this is just the beginning. This is just the beginning and I’m going to pick myself up and I’m going to try the impossible.
”That’s when the Center of Human Development reached Whitney. They put a temporary roof over her head and just weeks later, helped her settle into an apartment that she now calls home.
“At the end of the day, life is like a puzzle and we just have to put it together and figure it out,” Whitney said.
CHD also hired Whitney full time.
“She also has a skill set and a personality that really kind of meshed with some of the work that we are doing and we had an administrative assistant position available and had her apply for that and hired her or it,” CHD program director Jane Banks said.
Whitney has come full circle, from being homeless in a shelter to renting an apartment, owning a car and working for the people who once helped her. She recently drove by the shelter with her son, which brought back memories and emotions.
“He’s like, ‘Mommy, you sad?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I’m so happy, baby, and I’m so proud to be your mom and I’m so proud of how far we’ve come and I’m so proud of you, strong little boy.’”
Whitney is one of about a dozen women who were once homeless that now work for CHD. She is now able to fully provide for her family, no longer needing financial assistance.
Copyright 2015 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Posted: Nov 02, 2015 3:34 PM ESTUpdated: Nov 02, 2015 3:34 PM EST