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Thu, Feb 27, 2020 at 1:11PM

Happy at home

Carrying a 9-month-old girl and a duffle bag stuffed with everything she owned, “Allyson” stepped into the office of Family Renew Community’s DeLand Residential Campus for families experiencing homelessness — jobless, broke and with no one left to take her in.

“She came to us beaten, thrown-away pretty much, living couch-to-couch with an infant,” Kim Bandorf, who runs Family Renew’s DeLand campus, recalls of that day last winter. As her case manager, Kim guided the 33-year-old single mom on her journey out of homelessness and into permanent housing. On Dec. 10, 2019, just under a year after finding Family Renew, the family moved into a rental house. Allyson has a stable, full-time position with benefits in a local government office, the know-how to run a household on budget, and more than $5,000 savings in the bank. The girl, now a toddler, is thriving, says Kim.

Allyson overcame a lot even before going through Family Renew’s door. Drug use and addiction surrounded her as a child and eventually became her way of life. She got clean before her daughter was born, but those around her did not. When her baby’s father went to jail, Allyson moved in with his mother, who got mean when she used. Allyson summoned the courage to get away, not knowing where she would go.

“She didn’t want to live that way. She didn’t want her daughter to grow up the way she did,” caseworker Kim says. “She walked in off the street, and she was, like, ‘I need help.’”

Family Renew Community placed Allyson and her daughter in a furnished apartment on the campus, rent-free and without utility payments. In the safety and security of that environment, she was able to begin to help herself. She found a job in an insurance call center and worked every shift she could get, socking away every cent that was not needed for groceries, child care and transportation to work. Her newfound confidence and workplace skills led to the better-paying Monday-through-Friday day job that allowed her to move on to permanent housing. She is on her way to regaining custody of her 9-year-old son, who was placed with a relative before she got clean.

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