Jada’s Story

I never considered myself to be much of a speaker. I never considered myself to be much of anything at all really. An inspiration, someone to look up to, anything like that. I spent many years alone in various rooms, whether that was at my father’s house with a small baby in my arms, at a group residential home with other moms and their kids, or the sixth floor at Warren Village. Looking back, I was doing the best I could, going through various stages of life with the tools and knowledge I had accumulated, being informed and molded by life’s challenges. It wasn’t always pretty, in fact it rarely was.

While I have had to make grown woman decisions for many, many years now, it wasn’t until this year that I could look in the mirror and fully recognize myself as a grown woman. The way I had viewed myself had been distorted and manipulated into dirt and mud, created by my upbringing and abusive relationships with my family members. My ex’s words filled with hatred became my inner voice. I was an 18-year-old with a baby, but without a driver’s license, high school diploma, or any work experience.

Teen moms have always been looked down on. Teen moms are expected to succeed and contribute to our capitalist society at the same pace as everyone else without the safety nets that other countries receive. We are expected to know everything, do everything, and be everything, but don’t you dare bring your child around. You had a child young, so you are scum.

I was living with family and my daughter’s dad. I was scared and didn’t want to be there. It was not my home, but it was all I knew and all I had. Those who have been through domestic violence and toxic family dynamics know it’s hell on Earth. I still jump and feel uneasy around yelling and slamming doors and objects. I’m hypervigilant of others’ moods. These are the self-preservation tactics that became part of me. These protective behaviors kept me surviving. I still don’t like to be around alcohol. It turned the people I love most into people I couldn’t recognize. I still try to convince myself that the wrong they did wasn’t really them. Trauma and alcohol turn love sour. I’m learning to forgive.


My daughter, Gabby, has always been the sunshine of my life. I say sunshine because I will always want to wake up the next day if she’ll be there to greet me. The sun is there to guide you, to clear the storms, and give energy to the seeds we plant. People say that your life ends when you have a child young, however my daughter gave me life and a desire to grow. The first goal I set my eyes on after having Gabby was my high school diploma. I took evening classes at an alternative high school that allowed me the flexibility to finish at my own pace. I walked across the stage and received my diploma when my daughter was 9 months old. My tiny 90-pound body was swimming in my cap and gown. Stress has always killed my appetite.

It was at that school that I met the first person that put the wheels of my story in motion toward a better life. It was a woman who volunteered her time to bring dinner over to the students at the school during the evening courses. She held space for all of us teen moms attending to sit and talk together. It was during these evenings that I started to want more. I became motivated to continue my education. I strapped my daughter into her stroller and walked over to the local community college financial aid center seeking advice on grants and scholarships. The woman at the office said, “How do you expect to pay for and go to college as a mom in your situation?” Her words got stuck in my head, making me think, Maybe she’s right. Who was I kidding? My living situation was weighting on my heavily. It was extremely difficult to find time alone to study and work without child care. I started to lose hope about getting out into something and somewhere better. After completing only one semester, I stopped taking courses. 

I felt completely stuck. I started having to call the police because the fights with my partner were so bad. It was incredibly embarrassing to have to ask for help from public authorities to protect myself from my partner. I felt really stupid for not knowing how to get away. I wished daily I could leave without drawing attention to Gabby and me. I wanted to hide from all of the “well you should have done this”, but where would I go? 

A nurse named Chelsea from the Nurse Family Partnership program invited me to speak with Congresswoman Diana DeGette and other state senators at events about the impact of their program that supports first time mothers. I felt like an imposter speaking to these powerful individuals while my home life was hell, and I just quit going to college. Chelsea was seeing potential in me that I couldn’t recognize, as well as identifying how bad my living situation was. She was the first person to tell me about Warren Village. It was until years later that I’d find the strength to move there.

The fights at home became worse and worse. It was so bad that a waitress at a restaurant identified my desperation. She whispered to me, “Are you a teen mom?” She gave me the phone number to an organization called Hope House. They provided legal education and food support services for teen moms for free. I couldn’t believe it. I applied the same night. Less than a year later, I told Gabby’s dad that I was leaving him. That led to a very necessary permanent restraining order. The legal advocate at Hope House, Julie, helped me gather, sign, notarize, and submit all the necessary court documents for that order, as well as help me with the entire process for custody arrangements. The legal support she provided would have cost thousands of dollars if I would have had to hire a lawyer myself. It was all free. Julie played a critical role in my life. She sat with me at the courthouse and helped me every step of the way. She even helped me move into Hope House’s residential program.

My life felt physically safe at last, but the adjustment was extremely difficult. At the start of my time living at Hope House, I started working my first job, which quickly turned into three jobs, plus my fourth job of being a single mom. It was challenging living with other moms and their children all coming from different backgrounds. Hope House was staffed 24/7, and time out of the house was scheduled and monitored. We were held to a high standard of cleaning, cooking, and busy schedules. Gabby was having a very difficult time adjusting to her new school, and I transitioned into being a full-time student in an accelerated medical assistant program.

I felt extremely embarrassed, but my family and ex were pulling me back into my old codependent ways. Familiarness can appear comfortable even if it is painful in many other ways. On the last day of my medical assisting school program, I moved out of Hope House and back to my old life. I didn’t even prioritize going to the graduation for my medical assisting program. My certificate was mailed to me. I quickly realized I had made a huge mistake. I remembered when Nurse Chelsea told me about Warren Village three years prior. I went as soon as I could, and submitted my application. I was extremely lucky that there was not a wait list then, as the wait list is usually very long. 

During my first year at Warren Village, the pandemic started and the world shut down. My resources slowed and ended completely. Warren Village and Hope House became my constant support. I began taking more courses at the local community college as I realized I would get nowhere making $14 an hour as a medical assistant. I was so stressed that I was still spending time with my ex and fighting more and more. I would spend Monday through Friday at Warren Village, and the weekends with him. If the fights were ever too bad, I went back to my own apartment. With each fight, I longed more for a day when I could be at my own apartment at Warren Village fulltime. My ex and family would ask when I was coming back. I thought to myself, Never, but couldn’t yet find a way to say that to them.

I was struggling with codependency. I struggled my entire life with setting boundaries and doing what was best for me. Warren Village taught me how to do that. The many nights I spent crying in my apartment alone were necessary for me to process my challenging childhood in that abusive relationship. It was extremely painful, but necessary. If I had not moved to Warren Village, I am certain that I would have never done it. I didn’t want my daughter to grow up going through what I did, being a codependent people pleaser. I want my daughter to know it’s OK to put herself first, to strive for more than only a relationship and having kids. I want her to be independent while also loving life, traveling, spending time with friends, and herself. I want her to live a life that she chooses to live, not one that someone forces on her.

During my time at Warren Village, I took advantage of the services offered. The Holiday Shop provided by donors gave us a full Christmas tree every year. We never went without heat, water, or air conditioning. I had food if needed. the advice I received was invaluable. The subsidized rent and scholarship opportunities I received led to a nice savings account when I was ready to move out. My wonderful Family Advocate at Warren Village referred me to the therapist Pam, who helped me set boundaries between my family, my ex, and my old life to aid my mental health improvements. 

Copyright Nikki A. Rae 2023

Pam would ask me questions in our therapy sessions about how I felt about certain subjects. I was used to stuffing things down and avoiding how I truly felt about things for years. It wasn’t until a year into seeing Pam that I was able to allow myself to cry during my sessions. Pam taught me that what we refuse to face now will come back to haunt us later. We will eventually be forced to process it. It’s better to do it as we go through it. She is the reason I can now finally recognize a grown woman when I look in the mirror. Pam helped me remember the young Jada who had hoped and dreamed that maybe, just maybe, it could be possible to be a homeowner and a college graduate by the time she turned 25. I wish I could go back in time and hug that Jada and tell her that she did that.

As my time at Warren Village was ending, I joined a class facilitated by a previous resident of Warren Village, Reba. She was warm, welcoming, and working on similar goals that I was. We became close friends. She asked me, “Are you planning to buy a house after Warren Village?” I had just applied for a mortgage loan. I was very discouraged, as my low loan approval amount, the down payment required, and extremely high interest rates would only get us a tiny condo. Reba recommended I look into Habitat for Humanity. I applied for the program, was interviewed, deemed qualified, and allowed to apply for the home I wanted. One week in August 2022 was my last week at Warren Village. That same week, I passed my exam to become a registered EEG technologist and closed on purchasing my new home via Habitat for Humanity.

When my apartment at Warren Village was packed and ready to go, I got emotional looking around the apartment. I passed many hurdles while living at Warren Village. Thanks to the unbelievable, helpful resources provided, I accomplished financial, educational, emotional, and relationship goals during my time at Warren Village. I thought about all the other moms who lived in that apartment before me and how they must have felt moving out. I wondered what they had accomplished during their time there. I walked over to the window and looked out into the view of the city. I felt that my life was finally beginning. It was the start of a new chapter in life. I locked the door to apartment 611 for the last time. 

I wasn’t expecting to feel so lonely during my first few months out of Warren Village. I was used to always hearing kids down the hall, seeing my neighbors, and going to classes or events with other single moms and their kids. Now it was just my daughter, myself, and our cat. My house is quiet. Around the same time I left Warren Village, I also aged out of the Hope House program. My support networks were gone. I was panicking. It took awhile for me to realize that this is what was supposed to happen. I was supposed to finish school, get a good job, and move on with my life. I wasn’t supposed to need Warren Village or Hope House forever. I had made it. This was my life now, and I’m living it. This took a long time for me to get used to.

Today, I am happily single, independent, and still healing different parts of myself. At the time of writing this, it’s been a year in my new home. My close friend from Warren Village, Reba, bought her house right down the street from me. We are incredible support to each other. The two of us had a barbecue a couple of weeks ago with another former Warren Village resident and her child. Our kids were running, smiling, and playing together, and it made everything make sense for us. All the sadness, hard work, and years of effort came together in that moment. The joy is what Warren Village helped us find in ourselves and in each other.

Recently, I was sitting in the waiting room for my session with Pam, the Warren Village therapist who I’ve been seeing weekly for over four years. The door opened to her office, and her client from the previous session walked out. It was another former Warren Village resident who I met during that first difficult year I had at Warren Village. We ran up and hugged each other. “What have you been up to?” I asked her. Turns out she accomplished everything she was working on during the time I knew her also. She moved out of Warren Village a couple of years before I did. She was also still seeing our therapist, Pam, and working on healing. 

I walked into my session with tears in my eyes, reflecting on everything I have overcome in the past eight years. I looked up to see tears growing in Pam’s eyes as well. We sat for a moment in silence. This is what it was all for.

Support Warren Village residents and alumni like Jada and Gabby as they pursue their dreams, build community, and heal.

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