The term “midlife crisis” was no cliché for “Susan.” Her husband of more than 20 years, who was always the primary household breadwinner, became gravely ill and she became his caregiver. Shortly after he died, she got custody of her three young granddaughters and soon adopted them.
Suddenly a widowed single parent in her 50s with little employment history, Susan struggled in vain to pay the bills while meeting the girls’ needs at home and for school. An eviction notice in July 2020 sent her looking for help. She found it at Family Renew Community.
With a safe, stable place to stay and intensive, compassionate guidance, Susan lifted herself and the children out of homelessness. The family moved into a three-bedroom rental house in Ormond Beach on June 14 of this year, just in time to celebrate her youngest granddaughter’s sixth birthday.
“The program is fantastic and truly a gift,” says Susan. “If you work the program and follow the directions of the staff, you will be set up to succeed!”
Susan’s first step was to appreciate the respite from housing payments and utility bills, and refocus her energy on shaping a future out of the changes that had come to her life. “It was a lot going on. She never got a chance to just, like, breathe,” explains Susan’s case manager, Anita Dudley, Family Renew’s program manager in Holly Hill.
Susan chose to pursue a position as a home health aide, in part because the hours would work well with the elementary school schedule of her granddaughters. Family Renew helped with the costs of training and certifications. With Anita as a mentor and cheerleader, Susan budgeted to pay down debts and save money for her move to permanent housing. With referrals to counseling, tutoring and more stability in their home life, the two older girls went from failing grades to straight A’s, Anita recalls. The youngest will start first grade in the fall.
Susan also became a bit of a mother figure to some of the other, younger parents staying at Family Renew’s Holly Hill Residential Campus for families experiencing homelessness, using her creative abilities to gently encourage them to live up to their responsibilities to do chores on the grounds and deal with their feelings in healthy ways.
Susan’s gratitude for Family Renew and its supporters showed in the way she cared for her apartment, bringing her flair to the décor and cultivating a garden of potted plants outside her door.