Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

November 20, 2013

Former homeless women find solutions at shelter

ASHLAND — Normal securities, such as a bed to sleep in, a hot dinner each night and a secure job, are often taken for granted by those who have not faced the danger of losing it all in the blink of an eye. Kim Colburn and Bridgett Wilson know the feeling all too well.

Both women are residents at Shelter of Hope on Winchester Avenue. Each had secure means of income and lived relatively normal lives until things fell apart under uncontrollable circumstances.

Bridgett Wilson

The 37-year-old, originally from Boyd County, temporarily moved to Bourbon County with her husband and five children, four girls and a boy. Her husband worked long hours as a mechanic while Wilson stayed home to care for the children.

Problems arose when her landlord handed her and her husband a 21-day eviction notice to give the apartment to his daughter, who was attending college out of state.

“I had never been homeless before,” Wilson said. When recalling that day, emotions flooded back, causing her to tear up. “It was very, very hard to be in that situation and not providing a home for your children.”

With no other options, Wilson said they put their belongings into a storage unit and stayed with a friend for a few days before moving into a motel room at the Bluegrass Inn while they waited to get into Shelter of Hope.

“I got in contact with CAReS (Community Assistance and Referral Service) and they got me in contact with Ms. Debbie,” she said, referring to Debbie Sivis, executive director at Shelter of Hope.

Wilson said she struggled to sufficiently care for her children while staying in the motel room, with the small space and income being almost entirely consumed by nightly rates, which were around $200 per week.

“I just told them we were on summer vacation,” Wilson said. “They knew we didn’t have a house to go to, but I didn’t let them know we were homeless. I just told them we were working on it and would find them a nice home.”

But while recalling the family’s tough situation prior to Shelter of Hope brought about tears of sadness, tears of joy replaced them when she spoke of her excitement when she was allowed into the shelter.

“I finally got the call that they were going to give us a two-bedroom apartment,” she said. “Oh my gosh, we were so excited!”

She said she couldn’t tell if the children were more excited about the prospect of home-cooked meals on a stove or taking a bath in their new bathtub.

“I think each one when they got in the bathtub just kind of laid back for a bit and relaxed,” she said with a laugh.

After being in the shelter since Aug. 16, Wilson has finally acquired her housing voucher and is moving from transitional housing into a house in the upcoming days.

When Wilson spotted the house one day, she thought she’d take a chance and ask if the owners would rent to her, even though it was for sale by owner on Carter Avenue.

But even though the future looks to be on the rise for Wilson, her biggest struggle happened just as she secured the voucher that was supposed to end her troubles.

“They took my kids, even though I’m here (in the shelter),” she said, clearly heartbroken by social services in Bourbon County. “But at the same time, if I hadn’t had them here and I hadn’t been here to get help, I don’t know if I would have even had a good shot at getting them back.”

She said since she was able to get her family help and now that her husband sees potential to being hired with a sustainable income, prospects look good for reacquiring custody.

“I told the woman who took my kids, I don’t pack around five kids because it’s easy,” she said. She is now working on moving into her new home and hopes to get her children back as soon as possible.

Colburn’s story

The case of Kim Colburn resulted when a much different turn of events left her and her 14-year-old son without a home.

Colburn, 47, and her husband had earned a steady income by taking in foster children over several years. But with the untimely death of her husband, her resources were lost and she and her son were left without options.

She temporarily moved in with family, but said it did not work out for long and she was forced to move out when the environment became dangerous for her son.

The first thing she noticed about her apartment at Shelter of Hope?

“Silence,” she said. “It was so peaceful and nobody was in your space or trying to bother you. It was a joke me and my son had for the first month we were here.”

She said Shelter of Hope offered her peace of mind that proved to be invaluable during the trying time.

Unfortunately, when she first moved in, medical problems added to her list of issues, deeply affecting her morale.

Sivis said Colburn was closed off and kept to herself during the beginning of her stay. Colburn attributes this to a hardened mood caused by the development of an abscess on her back that put her in the hospital for six days, as she encountered additional difficulties with the healing process.

“They laugh now,” Colburn said about the workers at Shelter of Hope. “They look at me and are like, ‘When you first came here, you were not a happy camper.’ But it was because I was sick and I didn’t realize how sick I was.”

Colburn worked hard during her stay to acquire a temporary job as a secretary in a doctor’s office, but is actively seeking employment again after being relieved of her position on Halloween.

Like Wilson, Colburn has also acquired a housing voucher through the shelter’s transitional housing program, and has found a house for her and her son, which she said she should be fully moved into by this week.

“If anybody had told me six months ago I would be in this house, I would have laughed in their face,” Colburn said.

She feels welcomed in her new neighborhood and a few of the men in the community have approached her son about playing football during evenings of warm weather.

The stories of Colburn and Wilson are direct products of the work done at the Shelter of Hope through rental assistance and transitional housing programs. To apply for housing there, visit shelterofhope.org, call Sivis at (606) 324-6700 or visit the shelter at 2944 Winchester Ave.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606)326-2653.

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