Australia had always had a job to support herself and her two sons. After switching to working part time in order to pursue her education full time, however, she wasn’t able to keep up with rent.
“I got one month behind in my rent, and I didn’t have a place to go, not even a relative or a friend or a boyfriend or anything where we could just go,” she remembers. Australia’s sister advised her to go into shelter.
Australia made and her sons were placed in transitional housing—a stabilizing step for families who are coming out of homelessness—for 22 months. During this time, she was able to pay off bills and save money. As she worked to make her situation more stable, she realized she had the inner strength and motivation to give back and help others.
One way that Australia gave back was by organizing YW’s Donation Closet, a resource of household supplies for families. Her organizational skills helped the agency better serve families in situations similar to what Australia had been in. She can relate to the importance of the items there, saying, “It’s good to have something that makes it feel that your house is still a home.”
Now, Australia has a full time job and she rents a home for her family. She one day hopes to buy her own home for her boys to enjoy while they’re still young.
Her success is what the staff at YWCA St. Paul work their hearts out for each and every day.
“It’s more than just a community center, it’s more than just a place to work out,” she says. “It’s a place where people’s lives change, and without it the outcome would be different.”
“It’s a place where people’s lives change, and without it the outcome would be different.”—Australia
[Children playing basketball in a gym]
Australia: I have two sons. My oldest son is Jaylen, he is 11 turning 12 soon, and I have a younger son who just turned nine in February. His name is Stefan.
[Australia getting out of a car and picking up her kids from after-school care.]
Australia: I always had a job. I had started going to school full-time and so I was working part-time, so I wasn’t making enough money to afford the rent anymore. I got one month behind in my rent and I didn’t have a place to go—like not even like a relative or friend or boyfriend or anything where we could just go. So I talked to my older sister about it and she said, “go into a shelter,” so I made that call, that’s what we did. They still have not forgotten so that makes me feel like I failed them.
Ciana Cullens, Case Manager [offscreen]: She just needed some support and just needed time to get back on her feet
Australia: I was in transitional housing for 22 months.
Ciana: Transitional housing is a stabilizing stop for families who are coming out coming out of homelessness. It gives you time to address credit issues to pay off things and the opportunity to save money. I think the more she begins to become stable, the more she realized that she did have that inner strength and we wanted to do something to give back and to help others.
[Australia touring the donation closet]
Australia: so over here is like bathroom stuff over there I organized this so that it was easier to find things.
Ciana: The donation closet is a resource of household supplies for families. Everything was everywhere! Nothing was organized. If a family said “well, do you have any pots and pans?” and a lot of times I had no idea what I had.
Australia: I like to organize things. That’s fun for me.
Ciana: Actually her organization of the space helped me to serve families better.
Australia: It’s good to have something that makes it feel like your house is still a home. [To her son] You got your backpack? Good.
[Australia and her children walk up the steps to their apartment.]
Ciana: Australia has a full time job. She and her boys now have their own place
Australia: Your rent for a little longer and then I hope to have my own home because I know that’s something that they [her children] want like, they asked “Mom when are we going to have our own house?” That’s something I want them to have before they’re too old to enjoy it.
Gaye Adams Massey: It’s wonderful to see her success it’s what our very hard-working staff here at the YWCA work their hearts out for.
Australia: It’s more than just the community center. It’s more than just a place to work out. It’s the place where people’s lives change and that without it the outcome could be different.