A Safe Home for Janie: A Mother’s Fight to Protect Her Daughter

Written by United Way

May 1, 2018

“We were supposed to be safe there,” Melissa* whispered through tears. “Where could a child be safer than with her grandparents?”

Though Melissa and her husband had divorced, she and her eight-year-old daughter Janie* were living with his parents; that is, until Melissa discovered her former father-in-law was abusing her young daughter. With no one left to trust and nowhere to turn, Melissa and Janie were suddenly homeless.

“Never had Melissa imagined anything like this could happen. Homeless, helpless—she had no idea where to turn…”

Panicked, but determined, Melissa remembered hearing other folks in the community talk about calling United Way 2-1-1 when faced with a crisis. Slowly, she picked up her phone and dialed those three numbers. For the first time in a while, Melissa felt hope as the voice on the phone offered help. Melissa and her daughter were directed to Family House—an emergency shelter, specializing in keeping families together in times of crisis.

In the weeks to follow, Melissa gathered the documentation necessary to complete a housing assistance evaluation. Yet, she still worried, would the problems of her past prevent her from getting the help she needed in the future?

Reluctantly, she confessed to her caseworker her lengthy legal history and the numerous times she hadn’t been able to pay rent. Life had not dealt Melissa an easy path. She also continued to face mental health issues and struggle with a physical disability. Through it all, there was one thing she knew without a doubt—she needed to protect Janie and provide her daughter with a safe home.

Melissa’s worries gave way when the housing assessment verified her qualification for permanent supportive housing, allowing her and Janie to get the help they needed, while living together in a permanent home.

“Family house was the fresh start Melissa and Janie so desperately needed.”

As time passed, Melissa began working with a mental health professional, who regularly visited Family House. With the right support, she was starting to get back on her feet. Melissa made sure her daughter stayed in school. Likewise, Melissa herself went back to school—working towards completion of a Nutrition Course via the Ohio State University Extension Program. Through Family House, she also finished parenting classes, started GED courses and began working with legal aid to take action against her daughter’s abuser.

Sixty-six days after their first night at Family House, the time finally came—Melissa and Janie were able to move into their permanent supportive housing unit. This milestone was exactly what Melissa needed to continue her work towards independence.

Stepping into their new home, she paused to really take in this moment. No words could explain what this meant to her – and to Janie, especially.

Finally, they had a safe home that was theirs.


*This blog post is fictional but based on a real success story submitted by Family House on behalf of their United Way funded program. All identities of submitted success stories are anonymous for privacy and story details have been added in order to provide a better understanding of the individual’s personal successes and struggles.

This post was researched and written by the MadAveCollective, which provides paying projects and expert mentoring to aspiring creatives to give nonprofit organizations access to much-needed creative services at a drastically reduced rate. MadAveCollective partners with United Way of Greater Toledo to provide our funded partners with ongoing education and professional services to help serve their missions.

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