Thanks to Volunteers of America and The Home Depot, an Ohio family has gone from homelessness to a stable life filled with possibilities.
Darla Neises has lived for the past four years with her two sons in permanent supportive housing provided by Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio. She will “graduate” from the program at the end of August now that Darla has obtained permanent, full-time employment with The Home Depot and is able to take over her apartment lease and live independently.
Getting to this point has been a long road. In 2012, Darla and her two boys Ivan, age 8, and Braiden, age 13, were alone in a motel room, hungry and scared, with nowhere to go. Losing her seven-year partner to illness left them defenseless. With no other options, Darla took her children to a homeless shelter. She ultimately was partnered with Volunteers of America for transitional housing.
“If Volunteers of America hadn’t been there, my kids would have stayed with foster parents and I might be living under a bridge. I say ‘partners’ because they help me and work with me.”
After moving into permanent supportive housing, Darla took full advantage of the Volunteers of America programs and services for herself and her sons. Both Braiden and Ivan are in school, and her younger son Ivan also participates at the Youth Education Center. “I like art, soccer, and drawing and sketching, and I am on a soccer team.” Ivan has become a bit of a role model for newcomers and his friends. The family finally feels safe, and have the room and help they need to grow.
“Every day is a battle. I tell my kids, that life is not a straight road. There’s always bumps in the road and if the Lord didn’t want you to follow that road, you’d be on a different one.” And Darla believes, even though it has been hard, she is exactly where she needs to be at this very moment. And Ivan? He is kicking a soccer ball around somewhere or maybe sketching a new comic book.
“They really helped us out, and they helped my mom out,” Ivan said. “When we had no home, they helped us get one, and when we have no food, they help us get it, and life has been better.”
On June 16, a “graduation” ceremony was held for Darla. Both staff and other clients celebrated Darla’s success in the program, and presented her with a cake and a certificate of completion. She said a few words regarding her struggles and successes in our program and other clients offered her words of encouragement.
We are so proud of all Darla has accomplished in the four years she has been in permanent supportive housing and the strides she has taken on her own to stabilize her household and provide for her family.