A pillar of positivity and strength
"Life in a vehicle is very cluttered and very small," said Kelly.
Kelly could have given up at many different points in her life:
When her grandmother decided that raising three children was too difficult and that she couldn’t take care of Kelly anymore. When she was forcibly removed from her father’s care by the police in the middle of the night in a nasty custody battle. When Kelly cared for her sick mother while in her mom's custody.
When her father decided that at the age of 18 Kelly needed to live on her own and left her to live in her car.
To meet Kelly though, is to meet a pillar of positivity and strength.
“She’s very hardworking” said Melanie, Kelly’s Independent Living Counselor with Catholic Charities Supportive Housing for Youth (SHY) Program. “She’s a good person who has experienced bad circumstances.”
Kelly was born in Rochester. She lived with her mother, grandmother and father at different times until she was 12. Then her mother passed away when she was 16 and she lived with her father in St. Cloud.
Her father’s house was, in Kelly’s words, “kind of crazy.” “There’s always been a lot of people with my family. There were always cousins and nieces living with us,” Kelly said.
Around the time she turned 18, her father asked her to leave. Kelly said, “he thought I should be one my own, I guess.”
Kelly did have her car to stay in. “I was stuck with a lot of feelings. It was strange to have a place to go and then not have a place to go.”
Kelly researched her resources online and reached out to the SHY program via social media. Not long after, she met Melanie.
“She was super organized,” said Melanie. “Kelly already had her vital documents in place (driver’s license, birth certificate, social security card) and she had a job. We just needed to get her out of her car.”
“Life in a vehicle is very cluttered and very small,” said Kelly.
Kelly would go to school in the morning and go to work in the evening. After work Kelly said, “I would usually park in a parking lot of an apartment or business that had cars in it so it wasn’t noticeable. I didn’t leave my car on because of gas. That scared me.” She had blankets and pillows stay warm in the winter.
“I would catch breakfast at school. At work, they had vending machine and I would make it through the day.” Kelly received gift cards for food from school and from SHY. “I never really starved. I could be hungry but never starved.”
After only a few weeks, Melanie managed to find Kelly a room in a four-bedroom apartment. “It wasn’t ideal, but it got her out of her car.”
SHY was able to help Kelly purchase things for her apartment, and after her tax refund came, Kelly was able to make investments of her own too.
Three months into her stay, and only weeks before high school graduation, a fire at the apartment complex destroyed all of her belongings and put Kelly back in her car.
Kelly said, “It was a little easier the second time because I knew how to make it work.” She graduated from high school, homeless.
Having established rental history and credit, Kelly and Melanie hoped finding housing would be easier the second time around. It didn’t feel that way. “I think I got 63 rejection letters from the places Melanie worked with me to apply to.”
It was the application to Catholic Charities own housing complex that eventually was the answer to their prayers.
“Melanie came with me to get the application, see the apartment, meet with management, and was there every step of the way. When I got the letter from Catholic Charities saying I had been accepted, it was like the best day ever!”
Three weeks after Kelly’s application was accepted, there was an opening at the complex. She’s been in her apartment for four months. “It’s been the best! I was re-housed TWICE by Catholic Charities. I feel so blessed.”