University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Michelle lived in a shelter with her son when she was 21. Despite expectations that the shelter might be a supportive place for her, she talks about the rough time she had and how her son and another staff person served as inspirations while there. 


Video Transcript


I felt like I was going to be at the shelter forever. Two days after I turned 21, I went into a house with eight other girls and their kids. People would talk and comment about you, without them even knowing a thing about you. I felt like everyone was constantly looking at me. I spent most of my time in my room. 100% of the time, I had my son glued to my hip. Because if I lost track of him, they’d write me up. Things just seemed really off. My food was being taken. People would spit in others’ drinks. The staff just didn’t really care. I hated it because the director always had something to say. Telling me who and who I cannot be with, relationship-wise. What I should and shouldn’t do. "No, you can’t do your laundry here. that’s your job outside the shelter." Not only would she talk down to me, but the other girls in the house, too. She’d tell us that we were worthless, we were nobodies. That we didn’t know how to take care of our kids right. I worked harder every day to get myself and my kid out of there. I’d wake up and the director would be going up to my door to nag me, to see if I was ready for school. That right there motivated me even more. There was actually one staff member who was really there for us. He told me, “You’re really strong-minded.  You can achieve anything you put your mind to.” And he was right. After being in the shelter for 5 months, I finally got my apartment on May 1st, 2013