Like many parents, Chanell spends a lot of time in the car, with drop-offs and pick-ups going between school and daycare, work and home. Chanell’s experience differs, however, in that she and her older daughter Jade once used their car for shelter while experiencing homelessness.
Jade’s father died in 2016, leaving Chanell struggling with grief and lack of stability in addition to being a mom. She stayed with friends, family and sometimes in the car, telling Jade they were “camping.”
Chanell and Jade found a few months of stability staying with her grandmother, but then were not allowed to stay due to the type of housing. That was when Chanell was referred to YWCA St. Paul’s Rapid Re-Housing program, which provides short-term supportive services so families can move out of shelters and into housing, as well as resources to learn about maintenance and budgeting so that they can create a foundation of true stability.
As Chanell and her case manager were searching for housing, Chanell, who was then expecting her second child, worked tirelessly to find an apartment that fit her budget as a single mother.
“I think people see homeless and they think, ‘oh they didn’t try,’” Chanell says. “Sometimes things just happen. People literally take having a home for granted. It’s everything, just for my kid to go to her own room and have her own bed. I really don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have this program.”
“People literally take having a home for granted. It’s everything, just for my kid to go to her own room and have her own bed.”—Chanell
Since moving into her two-bedroom apartment with Jade, Chanell has given birth to her baby, Royal, and finally had the security and capacity to accomplish a longstanding goal: getting her GED. She’s now setting her sights on new goals to achieve, and will start online classes at St. Paul College in the summer.
“I’m just very proud of her,” Grace Nelson, Chanell’s case manager, says. “She has worked very hard and she’s just a phenomenal woman and deserves to know that.”
[Driving down the highway]
Chanell: Everything is driving, driving, driving, driving. Drop one off, drop the other one off ,then work and then pick one up and then pick the other one up. Jade—she’s six,she’s in first grade. And baby Royal, she is three months.
[text onscreen reads “In 2017, Chanell used her car for something else…housing.]
Chanell: My daughters’ father passed away and it was just kind of hard still being there. I’m staying with my grandmother for a few months. With the type of house she has, she ended up letting me know that, “you know you can’t really stay here anymore.”
Grace Nelson, Case Manager: She’d been kind of bouncing around fromfrom place to place she’d stayed with family sometimes, with a friend sometimes, would stay in her car, with her six-year-old daughter.
Chanell: The nights that we did sleep in my car I would just tell her [daughter] like, “you want to go camping in the car?”
Grace: She found out that she was going to be having a baby and still hadn’t found housing yet. And, what she’d been trying wasn’t working
Chanell: I think people see homeless [people] and they say like, “oh they didn’t try, you know they just gave up and that’s why they’re homeless. If they would have just put the work in”. You know, sometimes things happen.
Deena Zubulake, Director of Programs [offscreen]: Rapid rehousing is a model where you are trying to provide an intervention to families who’ve been experiencing short-term homelessness and we are providing short-term case management support services.
[Touring Chanell’s apartment in background]
Chanell: So, this is our kitchen. I love this apartment, I think it’s the perfect fit not too big, it’s not too small. It gives us the perfect just amount of space that we need. It was hard to find.
Grace: I help families find housing that’s affordable for them. [Continues offscreen] Once we find housing, then it transitions to be a topic of: how do you maintain this home? What are things you might need? How is budgeting going with food and rent and electricity costs?
Chanell: And I never expected to have a caseworker like Grace. Never expected it.
[Grace coming to the apartment for a visit]
Grace: How’s it going? I love building relationships with families. I think that’s the greatest honor that I have, is that people let me into their life and things that they’re experiencing and we work together. [To Chanell] What’s the next step?
Deena: Going into a place where people feel safe and they feel comfortable and they can make something their own creates really a foundation of true stability. Then you can leave room for things to develop and grow, you leave room for the dreaming.
Chanell: Did you guys practice the song for the little concert? I was preparing for my GED when I was pregnant with Royal and shortly after I had her I was able to finish. Well this is my GED certificate [shows certificate to camera] and I am very proud of this certificate. This little paper means a lot to have.
Grace: I’m just very proud of her she has worked really hard and she’s just she’s a phenomenal woman and deserves to know that.
Chanell: In June I will be starting online classes at Saint Paul College I’m very excited and there’s really no words. I’m so excited to just start.
[Screens shows Chanell reading to her kids]
Chanell: People literally take having a home for granted. It’s everything. Just when I get to go to her own room and her own bed. I don’t really know where I would be if I didn’t have this program. I don’t think I would be here, honestly. I don’t think I would have this home and I don’t know where I would be.