Have you ever faced an ultimatum? Not a small one like the ones we give our children, “Eat your vegetables or no dessert.” No, I’m talking a big ultimatum that affects the rest of your life.
For 7 years, I faced an ultimatum that would keep me and my three little girls in a cycle of homeless. The breaking point for this cycle was being connected to HOPE, Inc.
My homelessness journey started not long after having my second child. The three of us went to our first shelter in Atlanta. I was terrified to take my girls to a shelter, but this place was different from what I had seen in the movies. We were safe. But this shelter was only a 6-month program. I wanted to go back to school but was told I needed to work and save as much money as possible.
Ultimatum: Stay in the program and keep shelter for my two little girls and I, or go back to school and be dismissed from the program.
So I stayed. I kept my dead-end minimum wage job while looking for employment elsewhere to no avail. My shelter and others like it wanted to present their boards with a “successful” resident – one who left the program with another place to go, a job, and a good amount in savings. The problem is that a “successful” resident is not completely removed from the cycle of homelessness. They just delay homelessness for a little while.
I felt angry, but underneath that anger, I felt defeated. How could I become stable without a degree? I had nothing to fall back on. In 2016, I started my journey with Rainbow Village. After about a year of showing a great work ethic, I was finally able to go back to school. But I still faced an ultimatum. After 2 years in the program, I would have to face the real world. There were zero affordable apartments nearby, so I would have to pack up everything, move across town to more affordable housing, and get a second job to pay for our expenses.
Ultimatum: Quit school and provide for my family or keep going and figure out where we would go from night to night.
Then came HOPE, Inc! (I wish you could hear the deep sigh of relief breathed with those few words.) HOPE understands what most shelters don’t: finding a new job will not stop the cycle of homelessness. The most important thing is to get a degree. This was my missing link! A degree makes it possible to earn a living wage, so it’s easier to land a good job and save money. Kenita and the team provided resources to deal with all of the barriers I faced. They paid a portion of my rent so that I could stay in the Duluth area. My children got to stay in the same school, and HOPE helped me take care of them with daycare assistance. I was able to keep my GPA up because I didn’t have to get a second job and had time to study. I even got counseling to deal with some of my emotional and psychological barriers to learning.
On May 10, 2019, I was finally free of my ultimatum. I graduated from Gwinnett Technical College, with honors! Thanks to HOPE, Inc, I am no longer Bianca Miller, homeless single mother. I am now Bianca Miller, college graduate, and mother of three girls who aspire to college themselves. I am the first in my family to graduate. I am Bianca Miller, generational curse breaker!
Bianca Miller, proud graduate of 2019!
P.S. Watch a video of my story below or by clicking here!