‘That’s Not Help, That’s Love’
As Candice speaks, a sense of hesitancy seeps into her voice. She knows her story well, but recounting it seems to remind her of just how much has changed.
At 27 years old, Candice readily admits she’s spent most of her life stuck in misery. “Right now being happy is kind of foreign,” she says. “It feels weird to be happy.”
So much has changed in Candice’s life in the span of a year. A year ago she was pregnant, homeless and questioning whether or not she really wanted to live.
"It was just me and the kids – I had no one else. I don’t have any family that’s close to me. I had no family or any real friends that I trusted to take my daughters while I’m pregnant and in and out of the hospital."Candace
The problems started during her pregnancy. Candice already had two daughters, ages seven and three. She hadn’t experienced issues during her previous pregnancies, but now she began having unexplained seizures that frequently sent her to the hospital. Then Candice lost her apartment and nearly all its contents to a bedbug infestation. Around that time, her fiancé landed in jail for 45 days on a probation violation.
“It was just me and the kids – I had no one else. I don’t have any family that’s close to me,” she says. “I had no family or any real friends that I trusted to take my daughters while I’m pregnant and in and out of the hospital.”
Child Protective Services stepped in and pushed Candice to place her daughters in temporary foster care, she says, which she reluctantly did.
Candice went to stay with a cousin, but things between them soured, and she was kicked out after about two months. Homeless, Candice, turned to the Department of Social Services, which gave her vouchers to stay at a motel in Auburn.
A few days later, Candice received a phone call.
She learned that there was a fully furnished apartment available at the Rescue Mission. She couldn’t believe her luck, though she was apprehensive.
“I was nervous, I was scared,” Candice says. “I felt (like I would be) really judged.”
But when a Rescue Mission case manager picked Candice up at the motel, she says her fears began to melt away. “She just made me feel at home like she was part of my family,” Candice says.
After Candice gave birth to her son, her daughters moved in with her at the Rescue Mission’s supportive housing program. The girls loved the community there, she says, making friends and joining in the activities and events offered throughout the year.
Even after she came to the Rescue Mission, rebuilding her life was a challenge. Several times, when she became overwhelmed and didn’t know what she was going to do, she broke down crying with the staff. She says they were always there for her to lean on for support and guidance. In the process, she became more open to accepting help.
Candice stayed at the Rescue Mission about six months.
"I just want to be happy. I want my kids to be happy. That’s all anyone wants in life really."Candace
Now she lives in her new home with her children and fiancé, who has a steady job at Dunkin’ Donuts. She says that after suffering abuse in past relationships and a previous marriage, she is enjoying a loving relationship with her fiancé. They’re planning to be married, followed by a small backyard reception.
Candice also began taking classes part time at Cayuga Community College. She says she’s interested in photography and is pursuing an art degree. In November, she was honored at the Rescue Mission’s annual Hope Awards for her progress.
“I just want to be happy. I want my kids to be happy,” she says. “That’s all anyone wants in life really.”
She still visits the staff in Auburn and says her daughters love coming back to visit friends they made while living there. Candice says she couldn’t have rebuilt her life without the help she received from the Rescue Mission.
“If they’re willing to help people that they don’t even know, that’s family,” Candice says. “And that’s not help, that’s love.”