Editor’s note: This first person account was submitted by Michelle Armstrong, who worked through our JourneyHome Rapid Re-housing program to gain stability through a challenging time in her life.
Several years ago, my son, Micah became chronically ill with an unknown disease (diagnosed two years later as Crohn’s with Perianal Disease). As a single mother, I was facing a lot of unknowns and had a frightened child to comfort.
I made a lot of mistakes during the first year of his illness. I had graduated from college with a B.A. and changed jobs a few months prior. His dad was not in the picture, nor had he been since Micah was a toddler. Suddenly, I not only had a student loan, mortgage payment and larger utility bills, but also looming medical bills.
I had to make choices that were very difficult, and those choices always caused an inner conflict. I wanted to be there for my son 24/7 but couldn’t, because I had to make a living as well.
My supervisor was such a warmhearted person, having gone through severe medical issues himself. He allowed me to work extra long days so I could do Micah’s treatments. But his boss said this was unproductive, so eventually I was laid off.
I had already fallen behind on our mortgage payments in order to purchase medical supplies and pay high deductibles out of my pocket. We eventually lost our home and, still without a diagnosis and now without medical insurance, I had to make some fast decisions.
I researched hospitals and found one two states away. I sold everything, including the wooden fence around our yard, so we could afford to move. I found a job in Nashville, Tennessee. But, still facing the same demands to respond to Micah’s condition, it was difficult to maintain steady employment. However, the blessing was a diagnosis and new treatments for Micah.
Michelle continued to prioritize Mikah’s care over everything else, which led to a number of moves. In 2010, they came to Seattle Children’s Hospital for treatment.
As soon as we arrived in Seattle, Catholic Community Services was so attentive and gracious to help us. They then placed us in the hands of one of the most wonderful people I have ever met, Merri Ann Osborne with Solid Ground.
When I met Merri Ann, we were homeless. I still needed a job and Micah was still being seen at Children’s. Merri Ann was such a ray of sunshine. She helped us believe in hope again.
We were able to move into an apartment of our own. She then connected me with an amazing program to help people in need of employment.
During the summer, Micah had a successful surgery. Micah’s health improved so much in such a short time. Micah felt like he had a new lease on life. He had friends. I was meeting people and networking. It seemed things were heading towards “normal” again.
However late last fall, circumstances changed in our lives, and I made a decision that I have learned from but still regret. I had not found a job, and discovering problems at the apartment complex where we were living, my old fears returned.
We decided to move to Kansas City where there were job prospects. There were other determining factors, such as family being somewhat closer, but even my mother was not keen on the idea of us moving away from Seattle.
In any case, Merri Ann and Solid Ground advocated for us to terminate our lease early because of the problems with our apartment. The property management company had not been clear about some issues. They agreed to let us out of the lease early without penalty.
I remember crying as we drove out of Seattle, feeling like I was making the biggest mistake in my life. However, we left Seattle with something that we did not bring: a new lease on life.
Merri Ann, Solid Ground and Brigid Cabellon (with King County Career Connections) showed us that there was hope. They helped me rediscover myself, believe I was valuable as a human being, know that I was intelligent and – despite all of the odds we had faced – know that I was still sane.
Filed under: My Story | Tagged: Crohn's disease, Rapid Rehousing, transitional housing | Leave a Comment »