mater mea - Celebrating Motherhood and Women of Color

Last Year, I Was Homeless. Today I’m A Full-Time College Student

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Last Year, I Was Homeless. Today I’m A Full-Time College Student

Words: Jessica Schrody
VIsuals: Tisha Brenee

For women struggling to get by and mother, let this woman’s testimony give you strength.

 

About a year ago, I received an email from a 25-year-old mom in Los Angeles who was, as she put it, “so angry and depressed that [she wanted] to scream.”

She was raising her daughter without the support of friends or family (her daughter’s dad paid minimal child support and was afraid to be alone with the then 2.5 year old). She rented one bedroom and bathroom in a house, spent four hours a day commuting by bus, and made too much money at low-paying job to qualify for assistance.

The letter inspired a community-based advice column, and the mater mea community rose up to support “Overwhelmed.”

Since then, “Overwhelmed”—Jessica Schrody—has seen her life improve in ways she couldn’t have imagined when she first wrote that email. Here she explains just how that happened.

 

A lot of things have changed since you all last heard from me less than a year ago.

I’m here overwhelmed again revisiting the post presented to you, looking through the meaningful comments left underneath.

On paper, when you list out what was going on a year ago for me, and what is happening now, you’d think there would be some amazing testimony to pair with it.

I have a car. I have my own place. I’m a full-time student, a published writer. I run my own blog, She Really Had A Baby. My daughter doesn’t fight me on eating spinach most days—so it’s like, WOW. What a turn around.

Still, it was all quite a transition. A year of change, yes, but quite a shit show.  

My village primarily came to be my daughter’s godmother who, without hesitation, offered me the living room of her one-bedroom, one-bath apartment for $250 a month. Me, my daughter, her, her husband, and her 5-year-old son lived there as peacefully as that many people possibly could for nearly seven months.

I’m no longer ashamed to seek out what I qualify for...

Previously, I was renting a bedroom and bath for $700 from someone who’s lifestyle didn’t quite match me and my toddler’s, so it was an adjustment. However, the difference in positive energy alone helped ease my anxiety about where I could call home.

My friend was also parenting a young child, so it just worked. I don’t know how, but it did, and I’m forever grateful to her and her family for that.   

Maybe I became too comfortable—in routine, familiarity, support—so the universe was like, It’s time to move on!

Her landlord served her, saying she had three days to remove people not on her lease (me and my child) or else she would be evicted.

Since they didn’t charge me much rent at all, I was able to purchase a car. So although we were officially homeless, we weren’t on the bus.   

The housing crisis in LA is awful. Homeless shelters have waiting lists.

If you have ever said, “Why do they line up in tents on the street like that when they can go to a shelter?” Well, they can’t. Me and my daughter tried.

It actually felt impossible to get help from ANYONE, specifically BECAUSE I was employed.

I quit my job due to anxiety and depression, and then was connected with endless resources of help. I see a therapist weekly now.

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I’m a full-time college student; I complete my first full semester back in nine days. It’s the only way I’ve learned that I can be slightly assisted and better myself simultaneously.

Being a student landed me access to a resource center that assisted with some of the costs of moving into my new place. And even then I only got a place through seeking out private owners who I could meet in person before applying. In LA, credit is everything, and mine is shit, despite raising my credit score nearly 50 points by setting up payment plans and settling old payday loan debts. Making a personal connection with a private owner was crucial.

Actively seeking resources has saved me. I stood in lots of lines, Googled countless things, and left messages that still have not been listened to, but I did it.  

The first day of the semester was when I had to vacate my comfortable corner in my best friend’s living room. I was able to make it through that because I found a support group on campus. It’s a program that I believe most schools have called TRIO that is designed to support and encourage students who are at a disadvantage for whatever reason.

I’m no longer ashamed to seek out what I qualify for or to make myself qualified if it means I will have more time and energy to invest into myself.

My daughter’s father now takes her one day per week, and my mother gets her the day before for one day as well. A huge part of that required releasing my need to be in control. In my heart, I know she’s safe, and I have to let her make decisions about people on her own as she grows older.

Even the growth with her father took a chaotic series of events to achieve. He always wanted to see her, but only if it included me. That led to us trying to be together again, which led to a pregnancy, which led to me making a decision he wasn’t thrilled about.

I think making that decision showed me how little faith I actually had in the growth of us, and it showed him how seriously detached I had become over the years.

After that, the focus really became our daughter, and I believe their relationship has grown more without my presence.

I started my blog and was talking to myself for a while until I did a remix to a popular hip-hop song that grew my following by tenfold.

It’s really presented some cool opportunities for me, such as brands reaching out to me for partnerships, and shown me how much potential there is for me as a creative entrepreneur, but most importantly as a mother.

On days like this when I take the time to really reflect on where I was in comparison to where I am now, I’m humbled.

We can somehow always find a way to be dissatisfied with what we are doing currently. I’ve been stressed out all day, but I just read what I wrote in about a year ago, and it’s all been resolved.

Thank you, to all of you, for caring enough to make me feel normal, worthy, and capable. I will forever hold this space of women in my heart.

 

Jessica Schrody is a Los Angeles-based mom, full-time student, and blogger at She Really Had A Baby. You can follow her on Instagram.