A Little Help Goes A Long Way
Photos by Per Nordgren
After living in a homeless shelter as a child, Trenton promised himself he’d never have to again. That was before his neighbor’s house caught on fire about eight months ago, causing damage to the backside of the home that Trenton and his three children lived in – damage that made their home uninhabitable and that their landlord wasn’t able to fix.
Trenton is a single dad to three kids ages 9,8, and 6. Immediately after the fire, all four of them moved into his brother’s one-bedroom apartment. It was a good temporary situation but Trenton knew they couldn’t all stay there for very long. When it became apparent that the landlord wasn’t going to be able to make the repairs to their home, he felt helpless. “I never thought I would let life get me, and it got me.”
For 25 years, Trenton has worked in warehousing. He and his kids lived in a home in the Park Hill neighborhood of Louisville. He worked tirelessly to make ends meet for his family, and though it wasn’t always easy, Trenton was providing for his kids and was doing it all on his own. “I didn’t mind working 16-hour shifts, things like that to make sure the bills were paid, but it was breaking me down doing that and making sure everybody was going to school, doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments, [my youngest son’s] special needs care.”
Trenton’s six-year-old son is on the autism spectrum and is non-verbal, which has made finding childcare difficult. “People didn’t know how to handle him. I lost several jobs – good jobs – because I couldn’t find anybody to watch him.”
Losing the house was the tipping point that made Trenton realize that he was going to have to ask for help. That first ask was the hardest part. He said pride almost got in the way of him getting the support he and his family needed. “I always thought I could do anything and everything on my own, until I couldn’t. And it’s a whole other feeling when you can’t. Especially when you’re looking at little faces that look like yours and you have to be the one to provide this and that, and do this and that.” He started reaching out to friends and family to ask them for a place to stay, but didn’t find anyone willing or able to let them move in.
He then called a list of shelters, looking for somewhere for him and his kids to stay. When he called Volunteers of America (VOA), they welcomed them all into their program. At first, Trenton and his kids stayed in their room and didn’t really come out. “I ain’t scared of much, but I was scared.” He didn’t know what it was going to be like. “I’m introducing my babies to something that I don’t really know. When I first got here I thought I had to sleep with my shoes on but when I first came through the door – smiling faces, welcoming faces, generous people.”
Trenton was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the staff at the VOA. He was especially worried how they would receive his youngest son. “I was scared that him making sounds or having fits would be the reason we get put out, but they were like “no, we are here to help you, we are here to help you with that and show you how to deal with that a little better.”
Trenton and his kids have been living in the VOA shelter for about 7 months. All the while, he’s kept his kids involved in school, sports, dance, and more. He recently went to a daddy-daughter dance with his 8-year-old daughter. It’s apparent through everything, that his kids are his number one priority, and being a dad is something that while not always easy, he’s really good at. “I just love my kids, I like doing stuff with them because a lot of that stuff I never got to do”
After years of working so hard to make ends meet on his own, it’s been an adjustment for Trenton to seek help and take advantage of the resources available at VOA. He isn’t used to the support. “Coming from a big ol’ family that wouldn’t even offer a couch for me and my kids, it feels great to have somebody have your back. I’m not used to it, I’m used to doing everything on my own and not asking for help but it does feel wonderful to have somebody help you.”
Trenton has more than just the staff at VOA in his corner now, though. VOA is part of a local pilot program of an app called Samaritan. Samaritan is a support platform that empowers people without a home to move forward. It allows individuals to connect and support those currently experiencing homelessness, either through words of encouragement or through financial gifts. Through Samaritan, Trenton has received several messages of encouragement and has received some funding to help him buy household items when he and his kids move into their new home. “Samaritan is a blessing on top of a blessing. When you are in here, you’re already in a bad situation, so you’re telling me that somebody is going to go out their way to add funds or add opportunities to help me, while I’m in here and when I get out? Blessing on top of a blessing.”
Trenton and his family are moving out of VOA soon. “I am optimistic, I am hopeful for the future. I’m a little ashamed to say, but in my 42 years of living, this is the first time I have the option to pick where I want to live. I just want to see my kids in a neighborhood that’s safe, in a house that’s safe and clean, they deserve that.” He’s not sure he wants to stay in warehousing though, he’s considering a career working with kids. Through the programs at VOA and the support of Samaritan users in his community, Trenton is able to connect to resources and training to help him explore his options and reach his career goals.
To learn about how to volunteer or support VOA, click here.
If you would like to learn how to support Trenton and others who are experiencing homelessness. Download the Samaritan App today.