Cora* grew up in Forest Park as part of a nuclear family. Never did she imagine that her life would take the twists and turns it did.
In her words
“I grew up in Forest Park, the youngest with two older brothers. When I finished high school, I became pregnant with my [now adult] son. The dad left me right away. It was a shock to me. I always grew up thinking that you needed to have a family unit for a child. In my young mind, I thought I needed to find a dad to create a family for my son.
“The [next] guy I got involved with did everything for me at first, and then it turned into a bad abusive relationship. I had two more boys with him and eventually left him. I got reacquainted with my high school love. We spent six years together and had another child.
“He shattered my heart. He kicked me and the two boys I didn’t have with him out on the street. We got in the car and went [north], where I stayed with family for a little while. I called intake for homeless shelters looking for somewhere to go[, but couldn’t find anything].
“I remembered my dad saying that the Ohio Turnpike can take you all the way to the ocean. We drove to [the east coast]. I went to [a shelter] and sat down with the director, who showed me a spiral notebook completely filled with names of people and families who were out on the streets waiting for beds in the women’s shelter. I saw families of five, six, seven people living in their cars. [But] she let me in.
“I stayed there for a few months and then moved on to a community for women and children where I stayed for another couple of months. The problems didn’t just stop. Having to abruptly take my boys from all they knew to new places really affected them, and they acted out.
“Their father took them, but then he committed a crime and went to prison. Their grandparents put the boys in foster care without consulting me. It was then that I found out I was pregnant with my daughter.
“It was the lowest point in my life. How was I going to move forward? My mom and stepdad made a place for me in their home [in Cincinnati]. I slept on their floor for a year.”
How HCAN helped
Health Care Access Now (HCAN) provided the springboard for Cora’s move from the east coast back to Cincinnati. Cora’s mother spoke with her pastor’s wife about the situation, and she recommended working with HCAN.
HCAN’s Community Health Workers (CHWs) work one-on-one with people struggling exactly as Cora was. “They set me up with supplies for the baby and were a source for referral services—anything I needed help with,” Cora says.
“I had been through so many things, and I was desperate,” she says, but her CHW approached her with positivity and motivated her to understand her situation could change. “Because she had been in similar situations, she could relate to me. That’s where the trust comes in. It helps you open yourself. They’ve walked this path just like me.”
Now, Cora lives in an apartment with her daughter and says she feels like she is starting again. Though she still faces hardships, her CHW has been instrumental in helping her change her life. For example, she suffers from an eye disease that causes vision impairment. “I’d gone round and round, trying to figure out how it could be fixed.” Her CHW helped her find a surgeon who has already corrected the issue in one of her eyes.
She says, “Basic necessities are the biggest necessities. I want to be able to maintain a home for my daughter. If you’re in need of any type of assistance, you don’t have to do it alone.” CHWs support and motivate their clients as they make changes to improve their lives.
*Not her real name