Michell Owens has plenty of blessings to rejoice in this Christmas.
She and her son, Kayden, 5, will share the holiday with Kayden’s older brother, DeShawn, 20, who recently moved back in with his mom after a long separation.
Her family was recently accepted into public housing by the Kennewick Housing Authority and is preparing to move into a two-bedroom Richland apartment.
It’s been a long journey to where Owens is now. Three years ago, she and Kayden were homeless for Christmas. Then, two years ago, they spent their first Christmas in a temporary home provided by Elijah Family Homes’ three-year transitional housing program.
Elijah Family Homes helps hardworking families who don’t qualify for public housing get back on their feet. Families are held accountable and supported as they work toward self-sufficiency.
But even though Owens and her sons will move out of the Elijah Family Homes duplex soon, she won’t officially graduate from the program until June. That means she’ll still take random tests to prove she’s drug-free and still will receive the case management and support services the nonprofit provides its families.
“I gained a family with being with Elijah Family Homes and I don’t want to lose that,” Owens said.
Her success mean Elijah Family Homes will be able to start helping another family on their waiting list sooner.
She has a number of successes to celebrate. She has rebuilt a relationship with her twin sons DeShawn and Michael. She was astonished when DeShawn — who had been living in a long-term foster home — asked her if he could move in with her and his little brother, she said.
DeShawn is job hunting and plans to go back to school at Columbia Basin College. Owens is proud of him and thankful that he wants to live in her home, she said.
“I felt like I didn’t deserve him to be in my house because of all the stuff that I put my kids through,” she said. “When I look at him I realize all the stuff that I missed.”
But DeShawn tells her she needs to acknowledge how far she has come and stop knocking herself down for what she did in the past, she said.
Owens, who had used methamphetamine and cocaine, has been drug-free for nearly six years, she said. But she still has challenges to overcome.
This summer, Owens became severely, dangerously ill. Doctors discovered she has diabetes after her neighbor found her passed out from high blood sugar.
When she was in a coma, some thought she wouldn’t make it, she said. She did, but she was in the hospital for 2 ½ months and is learning how to eat healthy so she can control her blood sugar levels.
She also wears glasses now, since her diabetes also ended up affecting her eyesight. She has to prove she can control her diabetes before she gets her driver’s license back. In the meantime, DeShawn and others drive her where she needs to go.
Owens also still struggles with anxiety issues that are too severe for her to find a job. But she plans to conquer her anxiety so she can work.
“Being stable for me is making sure I can meet the needs of my kids,” Owens said.
She hopes to be ready for a job this summer, although she also says she has a tendency to try to rush. She’s hopeful that she can get into a Lourdes Health Network program meant to help patients prepare for being in the workforce. She loves drawing and numbers and dreams of someday becoming an engineer.
“I try to do everything right because my kids mean a lot to me,” Owens said.
It’s easy to see how much she and Kayden love each other. They trade kisses, and Kayden tries to blow on Owen’s face after she blows on his tummy.
“Mom you are beautiful,” Kayden says.
“Thank you baby, you are handsome,” Owens replies.
And Kayden is comfortable around his big brother, fearlessly wrestling with DeShawn and roughhousing in a way that only boys can.
Tax-deductible donations can be sent to Elijah Family Homes, 660 George Washington Way, Ste. G, Richland, WA 99352. Donations also can be made at http://elijahfamilyhomes.org/or by calling 509-943-6610.