Nicole has an interesting history with ECS. One day in 2004, out of the blue, her then-husband said to her, “We have to move!” It was a shock.
He had been working as a groundskeeper for a real estate owner, and in return for the work, they lived in one of the properties. “We were going to stay there temporarily, we were going to move when a house [came] up … something bigger for our family,” Nicole said.
Her husband found a place for himself, but Nicole and their two daughters had nowhere to go. She called her grandmother, but was denied a place to stay. A friend in Tampa offered her space, but Nicole didn’t want to move the kids away from their father. Plus, what if things didn’t work out and they were left homeless in an unfamiliar city? She decided to tough it out in Philadelphia.
Nicole and her daughters stayed at ECS St. Barnabas Mission with the hope of finding a home quickly. For four months, she was a model resident. “I gave them every dime I had (for savings), no write-ups, I don’t do drugs. It helps when … you’re not getting saucy with the staff or walking around like an angry bird. I took it as an opportunity.”
All the while, Nicole was pregnant. “I remember feeling like the baby was ready to come. I knew. So I go to the front to tell [them], ‘I think I’m in labor,’” Nicole recalled. Sure enough, she was, and she delivered her third daughter right then and there.
A week after being rushed to the hospital from St. Barnabas Mission, Nicole and her three daughters moved into transitional housing. She later decided to separate from her husband. “He was in a dark place at that time, and I don’t think he was ready to step up … for me, for us, for our family,” she said.
As time went by, Nicole began building a more secure life for herself and her family. She attended life skills classes, moved into a different home through Philadelphia Housing Authority, became a certified nursing assistant, and grew her family.
Six years later, she found a job listing for a home health aide at ECS. “I was a thorn in [the manager’s] side,” she said. I think I called every other day … and the rest is history. It totally wasn’t planned that I was at St. Barnabas Mission and about six, seven years later ended up working for the same agency. It was in the cards.”
(Episcopal Community Services served low-income, homebound seniors throughout the city since 1981. In 2015, ECS successfully transitioned all participants and staff to JEVS at Home where this work continues.)