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Kate

"I'm blessed to be here"

When Kate settled into America five years ago, she was on her way to achieving the American dream. She had a steady job with a Ukrainian company downtown, she was staying with friends in the suburbs, and her English skills were getting better every day.

She had no reason to suspect that in just a few years, she’d be a single mother of twins, and on the verge of homelessness. Her story started when she met her husband on the train. “He was sleeping next to the window—which is why I sat next to him, because I didn’t feel up to talking to anyone that morning. It was exhausting for me to speak in English!” she recalls. “But, he woke up and started chatting with me.”

Fast forward three years, and Kate was not only married to him, but expecting twins.

Her pregnancy was anything but easy. “They kept me on bedrest in the hospital for three months, and during this time, our marriage started falling apart,” she says. Leo and Mischa were born at just 32 weeks, and then Kate and her husband moved to Naperville to be closer to their boys in the NICU.

After taking them home, Kate had to quit her job to care for the babies, as Leo required extra care and feeding through a G-tube. “At this time, my husband became abusive,” she says. “But I had nothing, and no job, and I stayed.”

The last straw was in the summer of 2015, when her husband became violent and pushed her while she was tubefeeding her son. She filed an emergency order of protection, and her husband left.

But her troubles were far from over. Her parents had come to America on a visa to help with the boys, but they couldn’t legally work—which meant Kate would have to support them financially. She received emergency rent assistance from her church and got a part-time retail job. But, it wasn’t enough to sustain care for her family.

Though she was grateful for the help, Kate was desperate for a long-term plan. She applied at Bridge Communities that fall and was not initially accepted. “Bridge was concerned because I would not only have to support my two children, but my parents as well,” she said. “I was sitting in a parking lot, crying, wondering what I was going to do, when I decided to call Bridge and beg them to reconsider me.”

Tom Thiltgen, Bridge’s director of case management, agreed to give Kate one last interview.
“She was fully aware of the dire situation her family was in and that Bridge was the absolute best solution for her, her twin boys, and her parents,” says Tom. “Kate was very convincing and promised her full cooperation if her family was selected for entry. She has certainly been true to her word; she is working hard, loves her mentor team, and is accomplishing all of her goals.”

Kate next met with her mentors, was formally accepted into the program, and moved into her Bridge apartment just before Christmas.

“When we first started mentoring, I let Kate know that this would be a difficult program, and that some clients fail out,” recalls one of her mentors, John Gallagher of the Naperville Rotary Club. “She replied, ‘Why would anyone fail out? I feel like I won the lottery!’ Kate is focused, knows what she wants, and works hard for it.”

Kate needed to find full-time work, improve her English, and get on a path to U.S. citizenship and permanent housing—a tall order for anyone. But Kate doesn’t back down from challenges.

Within a few months, Kate completed Bridge’s employment workshop and landed a fulltime
job in customer care for an auto auctioneer; she and her parents all began taking weekly English classes through Literacy DuPage; she connected with World Relief, who is helping her through the citizenship process and assisting with extending her parents’ visas; her divorce is underway; and, she has prequalified for Habitat for Humanity.

It’s a lot of work for anyone to shoulder, but Kate’s can-do attitude keeps her going. “It’s your choice how you see things,” she says. “You can choose to be down, or you can choose to be
positive. And you can become positive step by step, smile by smile.”

Kate is also working hard to recover from the emotional trauma of the past few years.

“Samaracare is where I get counseling, and it is one of the best things to have ever happened to me,” she says. “It helps me relieve my pressure and keep my sanity.”

Having her mentors has also kept Kate on track and supported. “I love my mentors— they have become like family,” she says. “They are so humble, open and helpful that it has really built our relationship. They help me climb and reach the things I couldn’t on my own.”

Kate has grown in confidence, and has now become a public speaker. To help spread awareness of domestic abuse and homelessness, she has courageously shared her story at events for Samaracare and the Naperville Rotary, encouraging others to help those in need. Looking toward the future, Kate is excited for the prospect of owning her own home, and one day, going back to school to become an ultrasound technician.

“Bridge has changed my life tremendously, and I do not know what my life would be without all of you who support Bridge.” she says. “I know how important this opportunity is—it is a great helping hand. I’m blessed to be here.”

Client update

Kate is working full-time and has prequalified for a home through Habitat for Humanity!

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Bridge Communities is a program that transforms lives of homeless families.  Surveys completed in 2015 show that, one year after graduating from the Bridge program:

  • 100% of graduates maintained stable housing
  • 94% of graduates maintained stable employment