Today, we have the incredible honor of sharing the story of a mom who was supported by the Sustainable Families program here at Aspen. We work with families who are experiencing homelessness and need the care, resources and supports of a dedicated case worker to find housing, help stabilize within a community and reach goals so their family can live a healthy, well, sustainable life and never return to homelessness.
Kayla entered the Sustainable Families program in the middle of 2018 while staying at Inn from the Cold with her partner. She was eight months pregnant and had been living outdoors in a tent until a few months ago when she started to access Suboxone (treatment for previous opiod addiction) and prenatal care. Her partner was still actively using opiates and was doing his best to stabilize so he could be a supportive parent to their baby.
Throughout the program assessment with her Service Coordinator Shevaun, (what we call our case workers) we learned that Kayla was deeply missing her two other sons who had been apprehended during previous drug use risks and were staying in kinship care with family. She had been having frequent visits with them and was optimistic that they might be returned to her care soon. She was planning to attend day treatment to reinforce her sobriety but also wanted to be sure she had stable housing for her baby, whom she hoped desperately would come home with her from hospital.
Kayla bravely shared a history of abuse, intergenerational trauma, frequent homelessness and past experience with programs that eventually fell apart. Through it all, she was so hopeful that a new home would allow her family to reunify and live a less chaotic life. At the end of the assessment period, Kayla shared that she loved that staff from a social service program “took time to get to know me for me, not just what’s happening to me right now.”
With the support of her Family Strategist and the Housing Liaison, Kayla and her partner found a two-bedroom home that she was able to move into the week after she completed her day treatment and just a few days before she gave birth. Baby came home from the hospital and mom was supported by the Sustainable Families team while dad was offered ongoing resources to support him in his desire to achieve sobriety. Visits with her boys increased to more than two or three times per week with the plan to return them to her care in a few months.
Unfortunately, a few months after baby had returned home, Kayla’s partner was still struggling with substance use and became violent and abusive towards her. Although her partner was incarcerated after one of these incidents, Kayla knew she could not guarantee her family’s long-term safety in their current home knowing he had an impending release date. She took the courageous step to reach out for support from her Strategist to find somewhere safer to live. The program leveraged our strong relationship with a community partner Horizon Housing to find her a new home.
During and soon after this move, Kayla reconnected with her mom, a strong natural support, and started having unsupervised overnight visits with her sons. She was able to set strong and healthy boundaries with her ex-partner and she has reported no incidents of violence since her move as he does not know where they live. After all of her incredibly hard work, in the spring of 2019, both of her sons were returned fully to her primary care. She recently gave birth to another baby girl, so now she lives with her two daughters and two sons in a home where she feels safe, secure and stable.
Kayla is truly an inspiration to Aspen staff and to others, showing that no matter how challenging things are at a particular point in time, things can always get better with tenacity, courage and the right supports in place. Kayla shared that her biggest dream right now is that the boys being returned can be realized and celebrated this fall. She plans to take her whole family up to the top of the Calgary Tower together. Kayla tells us “I’m afraid of heights, so this is how I will demonstrate courage to my sons.”
*In this story, names have been changed to respect confidentiality, but please know that this mom wanted her story to be shared with you all today.*