by Mira Reverente
When it rains, it pours. Blessings, that is. That pretty much sums up the past year for Meghan Long, a single mom of twin young boys.
Divorced, broke and in treatment for substance abuse, the 32-year-old’s future was uncertain for a while. One step at a time, she tackled her issues, starting with a detox program, at Prototypes. “The program provided me with some much-needed structure,” says Long of her four-month stint at the women’s treatment center off of Victoria Avenue.
“We got up at the same time every day, completed our chores and attended classes, meetings or counseling sessions regularly,” she says. “We had to ‘act’ like we were getting ready to go to work every day.”
Upon “graduation” from the program, Long tackled her housing situation next and was fortunate to land a spot at The City Center, a transitional living center for families, along Thompson Boulevard.
“It’s a working program for families in transition,” says Jim Duran, executive director of the center. “It’s for adults with children and the adults are required to get a job within 30 days.”
That is exactly what Long accomplished in the first month of her stay. As a server at a local restaurant, she works Monday to Friday, while the boys are in pre-school. Occasionally, she’ll pick up an evening or weekend shift, if her mom or dad can watch the boys.
For some of them with little or no financial literacy training, a few concepts like savings, budgeting and bill-paying are new. “The residents are required to allocate 30% of their pay for rent, 20% for savings and the remainder for groceries and other day-to-day expenses,” says Duran. “We help them come up with a budget and we teach them the concept of interest – how their savings can grow in interest-bearing accounts.”
The young mom appreciates all the new life skills she’s picking up, including time management and personal accountability. She says, “We rotate through chores. This week, I’m supposed to sweep the laundry room.”
“We also have to be home by 9 pm every day,” she says of the curfew. “I don’t mind because it’s so peaceful and safe in here.”
For anything and everything, the residents get support from the staff. Olga Hamra is a case manager who screens and interviews potential residents and helps them get settled once they’re in.
“We talk about anything and I help them process whatever issues they’re facing,” she says. “In situations like Meghan’s, stress and anxiety are fairly common.”
Unfortunately, Long’s journey at the center did not have the much-anticipated happy ending. She was evicted right around the holidays for breaking the rules.
“She had just earned a weekend pass,” says Duran, explaining that residents earn weekend passes by completing assigned chores, achieving set goals – a reward for good behavior basically.
Long was given a second chance but had to make some amends by attending a couple of meetings. “She dragged her feet with the process,” says Duran. “So we had to let her go.”
He says, “We’re all about chances and we’re in it for people to win, but they need to do their part. They also need to learn that there are consequences to their actions.”
Meantime, another resident has taken Long’s place, joining many others on the journey to independence, full of promise and potential. Good wishes and high hopes abound at the center.
For more information on The City Center, visit thecitycenter.org.