Last year, Shanika had her first child – a little girl named Monika. When a new mom is expecting, she is filled with joy, hope, and all the possibilities that come with a new life – yet when Monika arrived three months premature, “I just was not ready,” says Shanika.
From there, a series of misfortunes pushed their lives into utter chaos. Shanika used up all her time off from work, totaled her car in an accident, lost her job at the local bank, and could no longer pay her rent.
“I was in a small town with no public transportation. I had no way to travel to work, no transportation, no child care, and no family nearby,” says Shanika.
Shanika remembers how painful it was to realize she was homeless. “I’m a proactive person. I’m a strong person. I’ve always had it together. This is the hardest situation I have ever faced.”
She used the last of her savings to return to her hometown of Los Angeles where she planned to stay with a close friend while she looked for a job to get back on her feet. She soon realized times are hard everywhere when her friend found herself in a similar situation – suddenly out of a job and at risk of losing it all.
“We called 211, the County’s homeless prevention line, together,” says Shanika. “They told us about Union Station.”
“You think of a shelter as a cot on a cold floor, but coming to the Family Center was safe and comfortable. They fed us. They clothed us. They gave me everything I needed,” says Shanika. “I was stressed more than I knew. Union Station allowed me to think clearly and make a plan for myself. It takes a lot of pressure off when you know you are safe and don’t have to worry about where to sleep or what to eat.”
While at the Family Center, she received everything she needed to get back on her feet, including new clothes, diapers, food, case management, child care, and help finding an apartment.
“They pushed me to be motivated,” says Shanika. “With Union Station providing so many basic resources, it allowed me to save my money so I could move out.”
In January, Shanika and Monika moved into their apartment. “I can’t express my gratitude for all the things Union Station has done for us,” says Shanika. “Union Station was the stepping stone I needed to get back on my feet. This has been the ideal experience – when you think of being homeless, you don’t think of a place like this! This experience has pushed me to be a better person. I’ll come back to volunteer. I want to talk to people here and help them learn that your motivation has to come from inside you.”
Shanika is excited about planning her future. She has accounting experience and dreams of working in medical billing. “I hope to continue my career at a hospital or in a doctor’s office, so that I can build a life and buy a home.”