Mothers’ hopes and dreams – keeping our children safe, fed and housed

Photo credit Juell FAs a mother of two beautiful young girls, nothing brings me greater joy than seeing the smiles on their faces. They keep me going even when things in life are difficult. I am also blessed to have had the opportunity to take in a good friend’s younger brother; he is now my brother, too.  When I joined Witnesses to Hunger in 2011, I wanted to advocate for change, specifically surrounding issues of housing. For several years, my children and I lived in an apartment building that failed housing inspections on multiple occasions. Each time an inspector came to investigate the health and safety of the building he found leaky pipes, rodents, and other unsafe housing conditions. Despite mandates to improve the condition of the building, the landlord continually ignored these problems. I didn’t just sit back and accept that these were our conditions.  I tried to advocate for myself, calling the city, calling Inspectional Services, calling my landlord, calling anyone I could think of.  But nothing changed.  For years I struggled to keep food in the house for my family while mice took over the pantry and I constantly worried about the consequences of poor building maintenance. On January 3, 2014, these worries and fears became reality when the pipes burst in the apartment above us, flooding our apartment, ruining our clothes, furniture, food, and everything we owned, and forcing my children and me into homelessness. For three long months, I lived in a hotel where I struggled to keep a smile on my face as I fought daily to find a new apartment, provide food for my family, and keep focused on the future.

I never thought I would be homeless. Those two months of living in a hotel were extremely difficult.  Both of my daughters were deeply affected by the experience and watching them struggle was the most difficult part of this experience for me.  My younger daughter has multiple food allergies and needs very special, and expensive, food.  With nowhere to cook for her or for the rest of us, I struggled to ensure she had the food she needed. Both daughters are bright students, but my oldest daughter, who was 8 years old at the time, began to fall behind in school. She had never struggled to make good grades before, but the toll of living in a hotel began to show in her schoolwork. Her teachers called me in for a meeting and we were forced to create an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) just so she could keep up with her education while she endured the stress of not having a stable place to call home.

Today, I am grateful to have a new apartment and am happy to report that in the few short weeks after leaving the hotel, my daughter’s grades have begun to improve and she once again is the bright, smiling child I know. She no longer needs an IEP and has started to catch up with her classmates in schoolwork.

Mother’s Day is a time to remember and thank all mothers for the hard work and unconditional love they give to their children day in and day out. Being a mother comes with so much pleasure in so many different ways!  In addition to caring for my own children, taking someone in need and giving him or her the unconditional love, care, affection and guidance as you would to your own child is, for me, the best kind of motherhood.  As a mother, I want a better life for my children and I see mothers everyday with the same hopes and dreams of providing the best life they can for their children. This dream of raising healthy, successful children is achievable. Policies and programs that alleviate economic hardship can and should be implemented on the local, state, and federal levels. We cannot let families live in unsafe housing and we should demand that the city hold landlords accountable for housing conditions. We should not stand by while children are hungry. And we should not let another day go by with mothers worrying about whether or not they will have enough resources to provide for their children. To alleviate economic hardships that families face, we must invest in quality job programs, accessible and affordable college courses, and classes that enable people to transition to real jobs and careers so that families they can achieve self-sufficiency. The best ‘thank you’ that we as mothers can receive this year for Mother’s Day is for people to join us in advocating for policies that help us keep our children safe, fed, and housed for years to come.