Nicole was living in Las Vegas with her two young daughters, Kenzie and Kayla, while working at a daycare as the lead teacher for the 18 month to 2-year-old class. She had broken up with her daughter’s father before she was born, ending what she would describe as a “toxic relationship.”
In February of this year, she started getting threatening messages from Kayla’s father. Then he started showing up at her work, where her girls were also in enrolled in daycare. He would hang around outside waiting for Nichole to arrive at work. “They told me he was there about two hours. He wouldn’t leave the daycare,” she said. “It got to the point where he tried to snatch my daughter out of her stroller.”
Nicole didn’t feel safe anymore. “My boss told me there was nothing they could do. And that I would have to get a restraining order for them to stop him and prevent it from happening again.” Nicole didn’t have time to navigate the court system. She had to do whatever was necessary to make her daughters safe. She had to leave. “As I was walking out the building, the owner of the daycare told me, if I leave, I won’t have a job to come back to. So I ended up losing my job. I lost my car because I didn’t have a job to pay for my car. And I ended up losing my place.”
Nicole needed a fresh start in a new town. It wasn’t just for her two daughters; she had just recently discovered she was pregnant. She decided to move to California to share a home with her sister, also a single mother of three. However, when she arrived, things did not work out as planned.
Nicole found herself in a new state without any other family and few friends, no job, no car, no home. “I’ve been homeless (off and on) for a while. It started when my oldest daughter was two. She is eight now. Before, I was staying with my cousins, my sister, my dad. That was where I thought my life was getting back on track. And then it just fell apart. This time was the first time I did not have my family to support me. It was really hard,” she said.
Nicole relied on the few friends she had in California to stay for a night here and there, but it wasn’t consistent. “It was a little bit of everything. Not on the streets so much with my girls. We would stay on the running buses, transferring from bus to bus and they would fall asleep on the bus with me,” she said.
Nicole went to the county for help and was given some temporary housing vouchers and information about nearby shelters. She called the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission shortly before her voucher ran out and was invited to come to the mission.
Nicole has found more at the mission than just a safe place to stay. “This is the most help that I have received as far as teaching me life skills, better money management; something as simple as when I do my savings,” she said. “I actually feel that I am getting a lot of help with housing. I’ve never been a part of income based housing or low-income, I always paid what everybody else paid. With one income, I did the best that I could do, but it is really hard. I feel that this time might be the last time I actually have to go through this.”
Nicole is beginning to see that there is a way forward. “I am a medical assistant. Once I get my housing situated and after I have my son, I want to go back to school and become a RN. I know it will take a lot of time and patience. But that is my main goal. I want to work in the NICU with the newborns. I would love to do that. Even at close to eight months pregnant, I am working full-time every day,” she said.
Nicole is determined to make it. She knows she is starting a little late, but she plans to get to a place where she can buy a house, save for retirement, and never worry again where her children will sleep.
“I am truly, truly grateful for everything. As far as giving me and my girls the shelter, a clean space to lay our heads, providing us with all the necessities. I really don’t want to think about it, but I don’t know exactly where me and my girls would be right now if I wasn’t able to stay here,” she said through tears.