Nicole And Her Kids Leave Violence, Instability Behind

Nicole has been a professional caregiver for 11 years, so when her mother was diagnosed with acute leukemia last year, it was only natural that she took on that role for her mom. “I became her nurse,” Nicole said. “She didn’t want to go to a facility. She was diagnosed in February and died in July—it went really fast.”

Nicole and her four children, who lived with her mother, didn’t have time to mourn the great loss. Nicole learned there was a reverse mortgage on the house, and they would need to vacate immediately. “Just the mental state of all of that, being told I needed to move out of the house … I was still swallowing the pill of her being sick and dying, and now I had nowhere to go.”

The father of Nicole’s children reached out and invited her and the kids—ages 13, 9, and 5-year-old twins—to stay with him and his mom in Las Vegas. “He stepped back in the picture,” Nicole said. “He wanted to try to work things out, be a family again. I was going through so much at the time, and I was thinking it could be good for the kids. They’d be back with their dad, and I’d have help.”

They moved to Las Vegas, and Nicole and her children’s father worked hard and saved to get into their own home. “We didn’t spend anything for two-and-a-half months,” she said. “We saved all of our checks and put a deposit down. We all moved in and everybody was happy.”

But within a couple months, Nicole’s ex showed a side of himself she hadn’t seen before. “He became verbally and physically abusive to me, but we had worked so hard to get into this place. My kids were steady and I wasn’t ready to get up and leave. I just told myself to hold out. That was my mentality at the time.”

But the abuse soon ran over onto her kids. “It became really unbearable to live with him,” Nicole said. “He became more violent. They became scared of him. Emotionally, it was a whirlwind, and it evolved into something we had to get away from.” When Nicole received her tax refund, she made her move. “I left my whole house,” she said. “We didn’t bring one single thing with us.”

Nicole received a two-week motel voucher from the county. “It was terrible,” she said. “When you flushed the toilet, it backed up into the shower. There were roaches crawling all over. We went to the 99 Cents Store and bought plastic tablecloths to cover the floors, just to be able to walk without stepping on them.”

Nicole had been calling shelters, and finally, they got a room at the Mission on July 5. “It was very welcoming,” she said. “They’ve been a great help, helping us build our credit, looking for work, connecting us with the Housing Authority. The program is terrific. But it’s still been hard.”

Nicole’s 13-year-old son has had a tough time adjusting. “He just wants a normal life. He hasn’t watched TV or played video games. He feels out of the norm, and not the same as his friends. But I tell him to bear with me. I’m so tired of moving from place to place to place.”

Nicole said her kids give her strength. “I love them,” she said. “That’s why I strive so hard. The staff encourages me and reminds me that I’ve executed everything I need to do to get on my feet. I’ve learned I need to set weekly goals for myself. I write it down in my book and at the end of the week, I mark off everything I accomplished.

“I need to mentally, physically, and emotionally build myself and my kids up. I’m ready to get back on my feet. I need to mourn the death of my mother—I never had the chance to do that. I’m ready to move forward.”