Darlene’s Story: Confronting toxic norms and working hard for the life you deserve

Struggling as a single mom for 12 years, Darlene found herself in a place where she desperately needed help. She’d fallen behind in her rent and was facing eviction with nowhere to go. She worked two jobs just to stay in a motel, but that too was more than she could manage on her own. Discovering Saint John’s was just what she needed to avoid homelessness for herself and her 4 sons.

Darlene was born into a family where addiction was the norm. It was all around her, but it was not her personal experience. When she first came to Saint John’s in June of 2022, she wasn’t sure she really qualified because her story was not addiction or domestic violence. She did not have an open CPS case. “Maybe my story isn’t good enough,” she thought. “I’m just an average African-American woman raising kids on my own.” Instead, she found Saint John’s to be a welcome place for her – a place to catch her breath and re-gain her footing. And Darlene has taken her time at Saint John’s very seriously. She has remained laser-focused as she’s worked through the program in just 6 months, a much faster pace than most women, especially with 4 boys! Darlene attributes her hard work to knowing what it’s like to be totally on her own with her boys and no source of income. She added, “I know how to work hard!”

Life at Saint John’s has not been without its challenges. Two weeks after they moved in, the father of her two older sons passed away after a lengthy illness. While working hard in the program, she’s had to help them navigate their grief as they were close to their dad. She’s also had to adjust her rules as a parent while being part of a bigger Saint John’s family. On a positive note, her sons have adjusted well to their new school and love playing with the other kids. Most days you can find them tossing a football with their friends!

Completing our hands-on employment training and job readiness class in near record time, Darlene quickly found a job working the graveyard shift at Circle K. However, she has had her eyes on the prize of a better job and recently passed with high scores, the exam to work for the United States Postal Service. She was, in fact, recently hired as a City Carrier Assistant for the USPS, working full-time. She will graduate from Saint John’s in June and has applied to move with her sons into Saint John’s Square.

When asked if she had any other thoughts to share, Darlene reflected, “Coming to Saint John’s was scary and hard. But it was doable. I set my mind to a goal and others can do the same. You can accomplish it if you want it. I really wanted a better life for myself and for my sons and I’m willing to work hard for it. And now we’re on our way to that better life thanks to Saint John’s!”

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