“Thankfully, I don’t feel the chaos coming anymore,” Monya says of her current life. Since graduating from the program at Catherine’s House, Monya and her children have been enjoying their new home and the safety it provides. The balcony door of her apartment can be left open on nice days, revealing the peaceful sounds of birds chirping and happy children playing. Most of Monya’s life was drastically different. She grew up in a rough part of Staten Island, NY. She raised six children (four are adults now), and cared for her elderly grandfather, a WWII Army Veteran, and various relatives and friends who needed housing.
What was your early life like?
My parents were addicted to drugs, so I grew up “in the system.” By the time I was 19, both my parents had died. I met my first serious boyfriend when we were teenagers. We were happy to have each other, but were both products of a rough environment. Although my boyfriend took care of me, he also became abusive. He broke my jaw when I was pregnant, and that was the last straw. It was a long and stressful process to separate from him, because of more lenient domestic violence laws.
How did you stay strong?
I didn’t want my children to go through what I went through. I wanted to get an education, have a career, and be a role model. I was determined to provide a better life for them. My aunt helped me apply for a nursing certificate program. It was a popular program and thousands applied. I was accepted and one of 60 to receive a scholarship! I completed the program as a single mother, while working and caring for my family.
What brought you to Catherine’s House?
I tried to move my children to safe areas but there was still criminal activity in our neighborhood. A rock was thrown through our windows shattering glass on my son who was sleeping under the window. The next day, my son and I were attacked in the street, and I suffered a concussion and multiple injuries. While I was in the hospital, my landlord left an eviction order on my door. I had not missed a payment, but I couldn’t afford to repair the broken windows and damage to our home. At that point, I wondered if my children would be better off without me. I prayed about what to do next.
What did you do next?
I thought I needed to move out of NY and get a fresh start, so I visited my sister in Charlotte. During our brief visit we went to church. As I took my seat, the Pastor’s first words were “God said move your family here.” Although he was referring to a passage in the Bible, I knew this was a message for me. We were evicted, but I was thankful it was after my son graduated from high school. I stayed with a friend in NY to complete my resignation notice at work before moving in with my sister in Charlotte. Unfortunately, the environment at my sister’s house was not good for my children so we had to move again. I didn’t know where we would go because I hadn’t found work yet and couldn’t afford another move. Then I found Catherine’s House!
How did you and your children feel about moving into Catherine’s House?
The other residents were really nice. We were like a family, which was especially meaningful on Thanksgiving. I was able to stop worrying and have hope again.
My 6-year-old daughter was excited about the playroom and playground. My 11-year-old daughter had a tough time with the transition at first, but she enjoyed the children’s activity group and her time with the counselor, Miss Bianca.
What part of our program was most helpful? The ability to save money. I gained employment as a pediatric home care nurse soon after moving in. Because the program is rent-free for residents, I was able to save my income as soon as I started working. I saved $3,400 in three months. This helped me secure our apartment and have savings to fall back on in an emergency.
Do you have a favorite memory?
Christmas! While I always made sure my children had Christmas gifts, I hadn’t received a gift in 16 years! I was so excited, and my children were blessed too. We had never had a Christmas like that in our lives.
What do you want our donors to know?
Your donations matter to us. With all I had been through, I never pictured myself homeless because I always managed to pull through the hardest situations.
What are your next goals?
I plan to go back to school to earn a BS in nursing, specializing in labor and delivery. I also plan to teach my 11-year-old daughter how to cook. I want to prepare her for when I go back to school.