Noreen Nichols

When asked whether she ever thought about homelessness before she lost her home, Noreen responded,

"Not really...I didn't think it would ever happen."

Four years ago, Noreen was a homeowner in Milton. She had survived countless challenges that would have sunk many families. A mother of four, she survived her husband's tragic passing in a car accident 22 years ago. Without his income, she managed to balance working 40 hours a week as a Reach Up Case Manager, going back to school, and raising four kids at the same time. 

"I had to go back to school to get a degree and to find work that was going to pay the bills...I promised my children that as long as they were kids, we would have that house. We went without many times, but we had that roof over our heads and we were all healthy, that's what mattered."

As a Reach Up Case Manager, Noreen helped young mothers struggling to find work or go to school to become self-sufficient and take care of themselves. This work was informed by her own past struggles with abusive relationships and teen pregnancy. 

 

"I had my first two kids when I was 19 and 20, and their father was out of the picture...These women, when I couldn't break through to them, I would share my story and make that connection with them. Sometimes it takes that to get through to people and say 'Hey, I'm human, I'm not just here to harass you.'"

Four years ago, Noreen fell on the job, injured her back, and could no longer work. She ultimately lost the house that she worked so hard to save, living for several months in a camper before the weather turned too cold. After that, she moved back and forth between different friends' couches and basements, making due with what she could. 

 

After nearly two years, she got the call that there was an apartment waiting for her at Decker Towers.

"It seems like a long time when you're going from place to place and you don't have a place to stay, or you're outside in the camper and it's getting cold....After dealing with what I dealt with with my husband and getting back through school and making it through everything with my kids and them bam, I asked myself, 'What did I do wrong?'...It was all that one damn fall."

Now that she's been settled at Decker Towers for a year, she's found a supportive community that has helped her recover from her years of hardship. She has an apartment that perfectly suits her and her dog, Zoey.

"I moved in a week before Christmas, and I still had boxes everywhere, and I said 'Heck, if I'm going to get something done, it's going to be my Christmas tree,' because I hadn't been able to put one up. I was elated."

Noreen's mental and physical health has improved since she came to Decker Towers, and she is surrounded by people who understand what she went through. 

"My image of home has changed. Before, home was my house and my kids, but this is home for me now."

Noreen adds, "One thing that doesn't change is the feeling of being safe and feeling like you're surrounded by people who care. I didn't think that I'd get used to it, but as I've gotten to know more people here it's gotten better and better."

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