Meet Cynthia

Women come into the homeless shelter system in Philadelphia for a variety of reasons. For Cynthia, it was the need for safety from a former partner.

Like many residents of ECS St. Barnabas Mission, however, she has gotten more out of the shelter experience than she expected.

“I think being here has worked on me a lot. It helped me work on myself,” Cynthia said. “Before coming here, I used to have a temper. Every little thing would set me off. Learning how to address those situations without things getting out of control took a lot. Now, if I’m in a situation and you can’t talk it out, I just walk away.”

Cynthia resolved to gain more control over her emotions for the same reason she came into shelter in the first place: the safety and wellbeing of her daughter, Shide, 10. Even at a shelter as special as ECS St. Barnabas, homelessness is a strain on a child and Cynthia wanted to be a stabilizing force, not another source of chaos. Thanks to her mom’s hard work and the support of the ECS St. Barnabas staff, Shide has continued to thrive. She complains sometimes, but she still finished the school year on the honor roll and had a great experience at day camp during the summer.

“It was hard for her at first, but she maintained. As long as I do my part as a mom and stay active with her schooling and make sure she’s on the right track she should be all right,” Cynthia said. “She spends a lot of time with her dad too. She has a little sister there that she loves dearly.”

Living in a shelter with up to 40 other women and their children can be stressful at times, but Cynthia copes by participating in the many activities provided at ECS St. Barnabas. Volunteers bring a variety of programs to the shelter, including yoga, computer classes and workshops on topics like health and financial literacy. She never misses a meeting of the book club, and often has her head in a book.

“Just about anything they have to offer, I try to participate or have my daughter participate. I don’t think I’ve missed anything,” Cynthia said. “After a while you can become a little bottled up, but I feel like if you participate in the things that are offered it’s less stressful. I try to show my daughter that just because we’re in a shelter we can still have fun.”

Cynthia’s hopes for the future are simple: go back to school, get a full time job and provide a safe, stable home for her daughter. Although back problems forced her to give up her physically demanding job administering cardiac stress tests, she hopes to get back into the medical field as a way to help others. She is ready for the next step in her journey, but is thankful for her time at ECS St. Barnabas Mission.