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“I was so scared,” Jacqueline said. “I didn't know what I was going to do.”
The young mom had tried desperately to keep her family together. But three years into her marriage, Jacqueline’s world was falling apart. Her husband had systematically cut his wife’s ties to the outside world. He restricted her friendships. When her car broke down, he refused to get it fixed. He prohibited her from getting a job.
Jacqueline knew the situation was not healthy for her 2-year-old daughter. She also feared for herself. Depressed and losing hope, she remembers one particular day; feeling as if she had stepped out of herself and was looking back at her soul.
“I was a zombie,” she said. “I thought, 'this is not me.' I was living but I was dying. One day, I just decided, 'this is enough – no more.'
“I was so scared. I knew I had to leave. I didn’t know what else to do.”
That day, Jacqueline put everything she owned in two suitcases, picked up her daughter Gabriela, and fled.
A friend told her she was wrong to walk away; that being homeless would be worse than the situation she was living in. There was a time Jacqueline would have thought the same thing. But that day, leaving felt like the only option. She knew that being homeless would be better than staying.
Jacqueline and Gabriela took refuge with a friend, and much of the fear and anxiety lessened immediately. They were homeless, but they were safe. Jacqueline began looking for a job, desperate to build a new life for her daughter. But she struggled to find even entry-level work – a new challenge for someone who had held good jobs in the past. Two months later, Jacqueline and Gabriela were on their own again; living in a car.
“I was homeless,” she said. “I had no home, I had no job, I had nothing. I was depressed. I was afraid – I was so scared.”
That's when she turned to Hopelink for help. Within days, Jacqueline and Gabriela had moved into a Hopelink shelter. Jacqueline cried when they walked into the first stable, secure place they had known in several years.
“I couldn't believe there were people out there willing to provide help,” she said.
Jacqueline was warned it might take months for a space in transitional housing to open up. But only five days later, Jacqueline and Gabriela moved in to their own apartment at Hopelink Place, and began their new life.
Jacqueline threw herself into getting back on her feet, working two part-time restaurant jobs while meeting regularly with Hopelink case manager Kaitlyn Scott. She credits Scott with helping her find her way out of the darkness – and for supporting her every step of the way.
“Kaitlyn is so kind,” Jacqueline said. “She never made me feel like I wasn't capable. She believed in me.”
When Jacqueline lost her job, Hopelink staff worked with her to find a better position; helping her update her resume, prepare for interviews and apply for jobs.
“They built up my confidence,” Jacqueline recalls. “They pushed me when I was so afraid. One particular job – I felt I had no chance, but they believed in me and supported me. And amazingly, I got that job!”
Jacqueline now works fulltime as a phone desk receptionist for a local community health clinic, and for the first time in her life, she has full benefits – as well as plenty of office support for her mom duties with Gabriela.
Today, they are on their own; living what Jacqueline refers to as their “best summer yet.” Back on her feet and building a new life, Jacqueline is finding herself again; excited for the future and looking forward to reconnecting to the things that brought her joy many years ago. Bright and bubbly Gabriela is attending outdoor summer camp at the YMCA, gearing up for first grade, and practicing for a future career as an artist.
Jacqueline hopes that sharing her story will encourage other women who are trapped in bad situations; help them understand they are not alone, and there is a way out. And she is grateful Hopelink was there for her when she had nowhere else to turn.
“I am so happy now,” she smiles, far from the pain she carried for so long. “I feel really blessed.”