Counting blessings, not problems

Grandmother thankful to Family Service Center

Brenda and her grandson Andre moved into Catholic Charities’ Family Service Center on a warm June day. There, they were provided a room to share, access to meals, and the support of staff working to help them reach their next stepping stone on their pathway out of poverty.

Family Service Center provides families with a safe, stable place to sleep and get back on their feet. During their time at Family Service Center, Brenda and Andre were thankful to have “a roof over my head and privacy—my own closet—my own bed—my own space.”

It’s not the home they once had, but Brenda and Andre are both thankful nonetheless.

Brenda, who has raised her grandson since he was two-weeks-old, was the friendly face at a Bloomington discount store for more than a decade. She would spend two hours each day commuting—she loved her work so much she said the time was well spent—until cancer got in the way.

“When I got sick, I wasn’t able to work anymore, so I wasn’t able to pay the rent,” Brenda explained.

Somewhere deep inside, Brenda suspects she knew there was something seriously wrong with her, but illness is a frightening truth to face. In April, 2016, Brenda was diagnosed with Stage 3 leukemia.

“I just knew I was getting real weak,” she said. “I seriously didn’t know I had cancer. I was getting skinnier and I was coughing and coughing. Maybe I knew it and didn’t want to know it.” As much as Brenda is grateful for having that soft place to land at Family Service Center when she lost their home, she has a powerful deadline to contend with. She went into remission once, but the cancer is back.

She regularly spent long days at the hospital receiving chemotherapy. Andre spent those days with her, keeping busy reading his favorite Dr. Seuss books, watching TV and being doted on by the nurses during the day-long chemotherapy treatments.

While everyone experiencing homelessness prays for a place to call home, Brenda’s need was urgent as she yearned to recover from her transplant at home, and wants Andre to be settled into their new home as he began another school year.

“Since we’ve been here, people have been helping me,” she said. “I am so thankful.”

Thankfully, Brenda and Andre are no longer experiencing homelessness. They moved into an apartment this fall, and Brenda is receiving treatment for her cancer. Overall, the number of Ramsey County families experiencing homelessness has decreased by 30 percent since the implementation of the Coordinated Access to Shelter and Housing program.