At a recent Rotary Club of Honolulu meeting, Terry Walsh, Catholic Charities Hawai‘i (CCH) President & CEO, met a young woman named Taylen. She had received an award for an anti-bullying video she had created at school. Taylen shared that her family had recently been homeless and Catholic Charities had helped her family find a home. She thanked Terry and CCH during the award presentation.
Taylen’s mother Summer said, “by sharing our story, I feel that I have come full circle.” About three years ago she found herself in a situation where she needed to take steps for the well-being of not only herself but also her six children. Not wanting to be a burden on other family members, she sought assistance from a shelter for women and children. Eventually, they were able to find temporary transitional housing in Waimanalo.
During this period, she had the foresight to slow down and take care of her mental health. It was challenging, as she was deeply depressed and stopped working to care for her children. “I was in a bad place emotionally… I was lost and lonely, there were so many uncertainties, but I had to do something to be able to be in the right place for my kids.”
Two years at the transitional housing went by quickly. Through a friend, she heard about Catholic Charities Hawai‘i’s Housing Placement Program that helps families with children find and secure housing, case management services and rental assistance or security deposit payments to avoid homelessness. With the added help, she rolled up her sleeves and worked toward finding a new home and prepared herself and her family with the tools needed to move forward. Her CCH case manager, Stephanie Kon, helped her assess and build a budget based on her family’s needs and provided her with a list of affordable housing options.
The hardest part of the experience was finding a job, she shared. She recalls filling in many housing applications while at the same time looking for employment. Stephanie encouraged her and made sure that her paperwork was in order. It was overwhelming but eventually, she found a job that had great future possibilities for growth. They were able to find a four-bedroom apartment in a safe and well-kept building. CCH’s Housing Program assisted with their rental deposit.
That was three years ago. Summer and her children, now ages 16, 14, 12, 4, and 3, are doing well and are moving forward. “I am so blessed to have such great kids. They are so supportive of each other and keep me going,” she shares. “I told my children that there are other families in similar situations; count your blessings.” Her weekends are packed with her kid’s activities. She loves to watch her children, whether it be a sports activity, church or school project. It gives her so much satisfaction and reinforces that it was all worth it.
Summer and her family share their story to let others know that lives can be changed during tough times. It is never too late to try to turn things around and while things may not be perfect, it can get better. “I am proof of the work that Catholic Charities does.”