“I used to be embarrassed that I lived here,” admits Warren Village resident and mother to five kids, Rachel Chaney.
Society often makes unfair, inaccurate assumptions about families living at or below the poverty line. And yes, there can be some stigma attached to being a single parent. But like many single mothers out there, Rachel is a force to be reckoned with – stopping at nothing to achieve her goals and provide the best life for her kids.
Before moving into Warren Village, Rachel worked hard as health information coordinator, but her paychecks just weren’t enough to support her family.
So, she went through the interview process for Warren Village and was accepted in May 2016. Since then, Rachel has gained access to the resources and support that have set her on her path towards achieving her personal and professional goals as a Warren Village resident.
What’s her plan for the future? What words of encouragement can she provide to other parents out there needing Warren Village’s help?
We had a chance to sit down and interview Rachel briefly about her Warren Village experience over nearly two years. Here’s what she had to say:
WV: How did you find Warren Village?
RC: I was staying in a battered women’s shelter and my days were about to be up. At the shelter they help you look for housing if you don’t have a place to go and they told me about Warren Village. When I first heard about the program I didn’t think I was going to come, because the way that it was described made it sound like it wasn’t for me…
WV: What made you feel like it wasn’t for you?
RC: They described it as a six floor place with locked units, where there were classes you had to go to… And the application process was so strenuous. There were at least five stages to the interview process that I had to go through and at any time they could have told me no, so the waiting and all the interviews were very intense. But once I got to the last interview and I felt like I really knew what the program was about, it was worth it. I think it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. It is.
This coming May (2018), it will be two years since we moved in.
And I used to be embarrassed that I lived here. Like, who wants to tell people they that they live in transitional housing? So there was some shame there. But if you take away the term transitional housing and you really look at what we’re getting here—the services that they provide—and you look at the opportunities that my kids have had access to through Warren Village, it’s incredible. I’m proud to be able to help provide them with those types of experiences and resources. So now when someone asks me where I live, I’m like, Warren Village, baby! I’m proud to live here.
WV: What has surprised you the most about the program?
RC: For me personally the Learning Center has been a huge source of support. I think it’s the best daycare. I love it. I recommend it to anyone looking for child care for their kids.
And my Family Advocate, Chelsie, she’s just beautiful. She is very resourceful and if she doesn’t have the answer to a question she’ll find someone who does. And Allison has been great as far as guiding me through the process of going back to school. I really think they’re the best. For me, they’ve been the best. When I got to Warren Village, I didn’t know what direction I wanted to go in. Before coming here I was working and going to school and Chelsie and Allison helped me find the courage to stop working—because I’ve been working since I was 15—in order to go back to school full time.
WV: What job were you working before you went back to school?
RC: I was Health Information Coordinator. I was the manager of my department, and that is my passion, but the problem was that with five kids and me being on my own, my paycheck wasn’t enough for us to afford to live on our own. I was getting raises but they were petty raises. They weren’t the raises that I deserved. So talking Allison and Chelsie, they were like, let’s just do what we need to do and we sat down together and figured out a game plan of what I needed to do in order to get my degree—and paycheck that goes along with it—in order to be self-sufficient.
And they know me. You know? When you’re doing food stamps, you have to keep repeating who you are to those people. But here, they know all five of my kids on a first name basis. Chelsie knows when I’m up or when I’m down… She can read me.
WV: Are you planning to apply for a third year?
RH: I’m actually in the process of applying for the third year right now. This May, I’ll graduate with my certificate in Business Administration, and in my third year I’ll go on to get my Health Administration Associates degree. I’m excited.
WV: Has it been helpful for you to be part of a community of other single parents working towards really ambitious goals like that?
RC: Not really, but only because I don’t choose to seek that out. Having five kids, nobody can really relate to that. One or two, that’s fine. Three, okay. But to actually understand five… Nobody can really understand what that’s like. And I’ve always been a very private, kind of closed of person, so I don’t have a lot of friends here, but that’s my choice. It’s not because of the people the that live here. I just choose to stay to myself. My support here really does come from Chelsie and Allison. And I have my mom and my sisters and my brother here in town.
WV: Where do you hope to be in five years? What do you want for yourself and your kids?
RC: I would love to be a homeowner. I would love to managing people again. I want to go for my bachelors, but after my associates I’m taking a break because my kids are only getting older and I’ll never be able to get these years with them back… I would love to be comfortable and in my own house.
WV: How attainable would that goal have felt a year and a half ago, before arriving at Warren Village?
RC: Not… No. It wouldn’t have felt… No. My circumstances a year and a half ago—going through the divorce, not knowing who I was throughout that process—I wouldn’t have even been able to see that goal. But now I’m a year in now. Every day I feel like I’m getting closer and closer. There have been roadblocks, but with the support that I have here, the resources I’ve been connected to, and the encouragement of my parents, I feel like I can do it.
Right now, I feel like the most important thing is that I’m in school. I’m proud to be able to set that example for all my kids, but especially my two oldest because they really do look at me. My oldest daughter D’ajane is in high school and she’s got a lot of homework and she’s involved in a lot of sports… I think it’s pretty powerful for her to see that mom is going to school full time and working part-time, had five kids, and if I can walk out with a 4.0 GPA, she can too. That’s my motivation. Be honest, that’s my motivation. She sees me push. She saw how excited I was this summer when I got my 4.0. Got all A’s so… I’m gonna toot my horn because it’s hard. We’re making it though… We’re making it.
Warren Village is set to host the Stepping Up! Fall Gala to benefit the families of Warren Village on Friday, October 20, 2017. We’re excited to announce Rachel as our keynote speaker and look forward to the opportunity to share more of her incredible story with you at this impactful event.
Purchase Stepping Up! Fall Gala tickets here.