Everything was supposed to be all set.
Looking for a fresh start after her divorce, Shanita and her three children moved from Wisconsin to Texas in January 2019. Shanita had an apartment lined up and worked with a staffing agency regarding a job. But when they arrived, her plans fell apart. The apartment was in a neighborhood where she felt unsafe, and the agency no longer had jobs available.
Shanita suddenly found herself homeless in a new town, and she was desperately looking for a place to go with her children, Jamal (16), Destiny (13) and Raven (12).
They stayed at her sister’s home for a couple of days, but Shanita did not want to be a burden so she checked two shelters in the area as a temporary solution. Both shelters were full; however, staff at one of the shelters gave Shanita information on local agencies that could possibly help her family. One of the cards was for MCH Family Outreach in Bryan/College Station. She called the office and was connected with case manager Nikki McKeehan.
“There was no place else to go,” Shanita said. “It came at the right time.”
Shanita began the Family Solutions program, offered in all 13 MCH Family Outreach offices. Through the program, families work with a case manager and receive help through advocacy and support, connection to resources in the community and other services. The program allows families to identify and build on their strengths to meet their needs. Case managers meet regularly with the family for several months or as long as needed to offer encouragement as the family develops and works to accomplish its goals.
The first step for Shanita and her family was to find a safe place to stay. McKeehan placed the family in a hotel for a few nights and helped with food. Shanita called the shelter again the next day, and fortunately a space had opened.
McKeehan helped the family as they transitioned into the shelter and regularly checked on them. After they got settled, Shanita found a job but needed to leave very early in the morning to travel across town
for her shift, leaving her unable to take the children to school. McKeehan stepped in, going above and beyond by giving the children a ride to school each morning for two weeks, sometimes even stopping for donuts on the way.
“The kids thought she was amazing,” Shanita said. “They loved her. That helped a whole lot.”
Shanita asked McKeehan to go with her when she took a test to obtain her CDL license. She passed and found a job in transportation with Bryan ISD. Shanita calls McKeehan an “ambassador for Christ.”
“God sent the right person,” she said. “She’s genuine. God knows I don’t open up to a lot of people.”
Things are looking up for Shanita and her family. They moved out of the shelter and into a three-bedroom townhouse. She was recently promoted as a trainer at her job. The children love their school and received good grades in the spring. They found a church with McKeehan’s help that has a good youth ministry where the children feel loved and accepted. They are proud of their mom for overcoming challenges.
“She is strong,” Jamal said. “When she takes steps back, she comes back faster.”
Shanita said the entire staff at MCH Family Outreach was willing to help her family. One case manager chatted with the children about the book they were reading during a visit. Ted Randall, director of the Bryan/College Station office, made himself available to Jamal, providing him with a positive male influence he could trust. Shanita said finding MCH was a blessing for their family.
“This place is a vessel of God,” she said. “He used this organization to help us transition. This place means a lot to me.”
In May, Shanita earned an associate’s degree in early childhood education and is working toward starting her own daycare. MCH extended the family’s case so staff could continue to support Shanita’s efforts and connect her with individuals who can provide advice and assistance. She recently met with a financial advisor utilized frequently by MCH to go over her business plan, and she found a location for the daycare. Shanita feels optimistic about her next steps, but knows it will require hard work.
“It’s going to take a lot of faith and belief in God to get this project going,” she said.
McKeehan has been impressed by Shanita’s persistence and drive to improve her family’s life.
“She is amazing,” McKeehan said. “I feel blessed to be on this journey with them. Her determination, faith in God, and love for her family are inspiring. I learned a lot from her. We always think we are going to teach our clients things, but I’ve learned so much from them.”