December 7, 2021
This week, NPR published a story highlighting the United States’ affordable housing crisis and its direct link to family homelessness. Families made up about 30% of the homeless population in 2020, and a large portion of those families are led by single mothers who must secure housing and employment all while taking care of their children. An extreme lack of affordable housing combined with the financial and emotional struggles the pandemic brought with it, many women have overcome unimaginable adversity to survive and provide for their kids. Two single mothers served by Family Promise were among those asked to share their unique journeys into homelessness. With the help of Family Promise, they have found not only housing but a community of support that is there for them as they work toward stability. Maryanne and Romona showed incredible perseverance and resilience and were unafraid to ask for help when they found their way to Family Promise.
Romona Bravo, a single mother of six, moved in with her parents in 2017 to help tend her mother who was in hospice care. After her mom died later that year, Bravo's brother started looking to sell the property. Bravo was asked to move out April 2021.
At the time, she was still in school full-time, not working and had recently left an abusive romantic relationship.
"I was like a baby taking a dive into the real world and so I mean that was really hard to do," Bravo says. "But you don't need a man or that other person besides you, you can do it on your own."
Bravo says she had been separated since 2017 but kept going back to the relationship until she was able to press charges and leave in April this year. After more than 20 years, she decided to turn her life around.
"I have two daughters and I want them to know that they don't have to be stuck in that relationship because they have that other person, they can do it on their own," Bravo says. "They were a lot of my motivation to do this."
The 34-year-old reached out to Family Promise, an organization focused on ending family homelessness. Bravo wasn't sure what to expect. She says it was scary to be around social workers and child protection services because it reminded her of a life she was trying to escape.
"I got out of [the relationship] when it came to a point where I thought he was going to try to kill me," Bravo, who's located in Marlin, Texas, says. "I started to realize I wasn't happy, and I was invisible most of my life, so I wanted something more."
Bravo started to pursue an associate degree in criminal justice. And she got a job as a caregiver to save money. It wasn't easy at first. The children were lagging behind in school. She was overwhelmed and was getting bad grades. But she didn't give up.
"I actually gained really good financial stability with my job. I am able to pay rent, my bills and still have money left over, Bravo says. "I'm still in school too, doing online classes and I'm not too far from finishing my associates degree."
She was able to find a new house with her children at the end of May. She says it was very affordable, super nice, and had its own backyard. This year will be the first time getting a Christmas tree to celebrate the holidays with her family in her new home.
"I'm excited because we can actually put the Christmas tree up and not be criticized, you know it's my home," Bravo says. "[Also] putting up Christmas, the decorations and all the presents."
When Bravo finishes her degree, she hopes to pursue a job as a probation officer or criminal investigator. She also wants to become an advocate for people who have endured domestic violence situations. She wants to help others like people helped her.
"I think if it wasn't for Family Promise and if I wasn't able to come on my own with my children, I would still be stuck and I would not be able to do this," Bravo says. "This was the first time I was going to be out on my own [and] I didn't have the time to do it on my own with everything going on.