Vanessa's Journey to Stable Housing

Feb 22, 2024

For nearly seven months, Vanessa lived in various motels with her four children. It was a drastic change from the five-bedroom suburban home she came from.

“Living in the motel was very hard and expensive. We were paying almost $700 a week. It was depressing and lonely and some motels were scary and not very safe.”

Her four girls, at the time 17, 16, 12 and 8, were cramped in a small space. It was stressful and trying to get them to school she had to surmount overwhelming transportation issues. Making meals for her family also proved challenging.

“We were going to the food pantry, and they would give you a lot of things that you can’t cook in a motel room. We were learning to cook spaghetti in a microwave like noodles and stuff. We had to become very creative.”

Vanessa says she escaped an abusive relationship. She moved to Raleigh and had a job, but everything started to fall apart, and she found herself simply trying to survive.

“I’ve never been in a house by myself with my kids where all the responsibility falls on me. I was in that horrible relationship where he was in charge of all of the money, even the money I made. I’ve never paid a bill myself. I know that sounds silly but it’s true. I've never been taught those skills.”

Employed as a childcare worker for 16 years, Vanessa says she lost her job due to her disability, persistent hemiplegic migraines, that often left her with stroke like symptoms and debilitating pain that resulted in numerous doctor visits and trips to the hospital. When she could no longer afford the motel, she came to The Salvation Army of Wake County shelter, and that’s where she met caseworker Frank Baldiga.

“I loved having Frank as my caseworker. He’s wonderful. I couldn’t have asked for a better caseworker.”

Frank helped Vanessa navigate the challenges of getting replacement social security cards and birth certificates, and he helped her with child custody paperwork.

“We did everything together, and everything fell into place. All the paperwork started coming in, and I was so happy I finally had all the stuff I needed that I had been trying to get for months and months by myself.”

Thanks to Frank’s help, Vanessa’s stay at the Wake Army shelter was brief. He managed to secure her permanent supportive housing. She qualified because of her chronic homelessness and her disability. He also helped with an old utility bill so she would get her electric turned on. Getting the keys to her newly renovated, three-bedroom duplex was a relief.

“Everyone has their own space and we’re back to cooking our own meals which is great. Back to not fighting over one shower. It’s been great and freeing and the best thing ever. It’s been wonderful. Frank helped with everything I needed.”

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