A Backyard of their Own: Alumni Check-In: Ashley Wilson
“My children can learn the address and we won’t ever have to move again. No sharing backyards, or driveways. This is OUR home,” said Ashley Wilson. She moved into the newly-renovated, two-story, three-bedroom home —her very first single-family home— in August 2022. “My favorite room in the house is the living room,” she said. “I love how cozy it is with the fireplace. It’s where me and my children can cuddle and watch movies.”
A year and a half ago, things were very different for Ashley. She left an abusive marriage, but then caught COVID, lost her job, then her car, and was evicted from her apartment. With no where else to turn, she found shelter for her and her three young children at Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center.
If this story sounds familiar, it should. We told you about Ashley when she graduated from Seeds with her GED in March 2021, while still living in the homeless shelter. She kept in contact and provided us with a few incredible updates. But to appreciate how far she’s come, we want to tell you more about where she’s been.
At the time Ashley took her GED tests, she was juggling homelessness, unemployment, COVID, the loss of all of her belongings and furniture. But she admits the hardest part was the struggle within herself. “I was broken mentally and emotionally,” she said. But she couldn’t wallow — she had to consider her kids.
Laura’s Home offers wrap-around services to stabilize families in crisis. Ashley had to get up at 6am, clean her room, get the kids ready and fed, and settle them in for virtual learning. Then it was off to chapel, chores, workshops, homework, dinner, and start it all over. With a busy schedule and more urgent concerns, there wasn’t a lot of time to think about the GED. But when her children came down with COVID too, the family had to quarantine in their rooms for nearly three weeks. It was then that Ashley found time to study math.
Ashley had been a student on and off since 2008 so it wasn’t unusual for her to disappear from the Seeds’ classroom for stretches at a time. But this time felt different and the staff kept reaching out.
“I felt ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I was in a shelter,” she remembered. She didn’t want to tell them her circumstances, but was glad she did. “To my surprise, everyone at Seeds was so understanding.” They got her set up and working on math in the Virtual Classroom.
“Every time I had an obstacle to face, Seeds was there to help me move it. The people at Seeds were never judgmental, never made me feel ashamed or embarrassed. They actually kinda embraced my circumstances and helped me to improve my situation,” she said. “They make you feel like you’re a person, not just a number. They are always there to talk to.”
THE EDGE OF SOMETHING GREAT
While still in the shelter, GED fresh in her hands, Ashley enrolled in nursing school. Just a short year later, she graduated as an LPN with a 3.8 GPA. Although she was poised to provide a better life for her family, she still had to rely on Laura’s Home.
Everything changed when Laura’s Home selected Ashley and her family for the New Horizons program. New Horizons homes are purchased and then renovated by volunteers or organizations like Habitat for Humanity. A family is selected and must successfully complete preparations for home ownership with specialized casework and financial planning classes. After 24 months of employment and proven home care, the deed transfers to the family.
“I don’t know why they selected me,” Ashley said modestly, although it is obvious to anyone who knows her story. She first saw the home stripped to the studs, pre-renovation. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw the nice neighborhood and how big the house was. That was supposed to be the only time I saw it, so they could surprise me with the renovations.” Too excited to wait, Ashley confessed she snuck over several times and peeked into the windows to see the progress.
The completed, remodeled home has all of the charm of the original, with built-in bookshelves and drawers, arched doorways, and even a small balcony off the back. New drywall, hardwood floors, and updated appliances modernize it.
Ashley excitedly showed us a sunroom she will turn into a master bedroom – left unsaid is that by doing so, her children each have their own large bedrooms.
A BRIGHT FUTURE
She worked briefly as a detox nurse, but is now looking for nursing roles more compatible with her children’s school schedule. If there’s one thing Ashley’s shown the world, it’s that she doesn’t give up. We’re confident a great opportunity is right around the corner. With her GED, LPN, and new home, there’s nothing holding her back.