Family Gets A Roof Over Its Head, Plans For The Future

Crystal and Antwon’s family suffered a tragic blow in 2016 when their son was murdered. “That was really hard for us,” Crystal said. “He was 22. Where we’re from in St. Louis, Missouri, it’s gotten pretty dangerous, as far as gun violence goes. So that took a huge toll on us. And from there we ended up coming up on harder times.”

Crystal and Antwon both lost their jobs and they found it harder to afford their home. Then, Crystal’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. “She had surgery coming up, and she was living here (in the Valley), by herself. We decided to come here and help take care of her.”

Crystal and the kids, ages 8, 10 and 13, moved, but Antwon had to stay back to help transition his own ill mother into a senior living facility. The family couldn’t find suitable housing before their section 8 housing voucher expired. “That was hard. It was me and my children in my mother’s unit—she lives in a single. We were there for her surgery, and took care of her. After a while, when she started getting better, her landlord said we had to go, that the unit was too small for all of us.”

Crystal and the kids stayed at a transitional housing complex for a couple months. “I had really, really bad anxiety there. Most of it had to do with that it was the first time I’d ever been away from my husband in the eight years we’ve been married. It was really hard. There was a lot of anxiety, stress, a little depression. Everything was just really overwhelming. It was a rush of things all happening at once.”

Antwon was struggling too, feeling helpless being so far away. “And of course, I’m losing my mind,” he said. “I’m talking to her on the phone and I can hear the panic and the anxiety and that’s making me frustrated because I’m so far away and I couldn’t be there. I had to make sure my mom’s OK but I wanted to hurry up and get here to make sure my wife was OK.”

When Antwon was able to join his family, they moved, as the housing complex doesn’t allow men. “I couldn’t bear him being separated from me and the children longer than the six months we’d already been apart,” Crystal said.

For more than a year, the family lived hotel to hotel, or couch to couch, before getting into the mission in November. “Our spirit is pretty positive right now,” Crystal said. “We have peace here. We have a roof over our head at night and meals, which is a blessing in itself. They provide pretty much all of our needs, so our main focus is saving.”

“They help us with contacts, job leads, give us housing leads,” Antwon added. “They assist us with credit. They really, really help. They open the doors and you walk in and whatever you do after the door is open is on you. But they open those doors for you. That in itself is a big help.”

Crystal praised the classes and support groups they’ve been a part of at the mission. “We graduated from this parenting class and it was very, very helpful and enlightening,” she said. “Some of the skills that we’ve learned, we were able to try out in our own family and a lot of it has helped. It’s helped on a personal level with our relationships with our children.”

“They are people too—they are just smaller people,” Antwon added. “Being homeless is stressful in itself. Children feel that and they need to be heard. Sometimes they may not want to talk, but they may just need to be held for a little while to ease the pressures of their day.”

The couple’s 13-year-old has opened up since arriving at the Mission. “She’s seen a lot and has gone through a lot emotionally,” Crystal said. “She had withdrawn, but now has really opened up.”

Crystal said she and her husband are diligently looking for full-time work and saving as much as possible. “We have a plan and we’re sticking with it,” she said. “We are focused. No more hiding or running from past situations. It’s time to face it and deal with it. We know what our goal is, we know what we want, we know what our mistakes were, and this time, we refuse to allow ourselves to be defeated.”