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Darla and Ivan's Story

In Six Words: It’s how you look at life.

“My goals for 2014 are to sketch better, follow my expectations, improve my memory, I want to get better at soccer and read one book that is not for school.  And so far, I am doing pretty good.” Ten year-old Ivan sounds like any other 10-year old kid. 

Two years ago, Darla and her two boys Ivan, age 8, and Braiden, age 13, were alone in a motel room, hungry and scared, with nowhere to go.  Losing her 7-year partner to illness left them defenseless.  With no other options, Darla took her children to a homeless shelter.  Darla also knows that she struggles with depression and bi-polar disorder, but to her, “they are just labels,” and it didn’t stop her from wanting to keep help her children safe.  “They saw things they shouldn’t have seen,” and she knew she couldn’t make it alone or without a home.  “If Volunteers of America hadn’t been there, my kids would have stayed with foster parents and I might be living under a bridge.” 

Darla was partnered with Volunteers of America for housing.  “I say partners because they help me and work with me.”  The staff and case manager helping Darla and her sons have become like family to her.  Now in permanent supportive housing she says that, “when they visit me once a week, it doesn’t feel like an inspection, it feels like a friend coming over to listen and help.”    

Since moving into the permanent supportive housing, Darla has taken full advantage of the programs and services for herself and her sons.  They go to soccer games, have their own home, small possessions, transportation, and she is getting help for her problems. 

Both Braiden and Ivan are in school, and her younger son Ivan also participates at the Youth Education Center.  “I like art, soccer, and drawing and sketching and I am on a soccer team.” Ivan has become a bit of a role model for newcomers and his friends.  They finally feel safe and have the room and help they need to grow. 

“Every day is a battle.  I tell my kids, that life is not a straight road.  There’s always bumps in the road and if the Lord didn’t want you to follow that road, you’d be on a different one.”  And Darla believes, even though it has been hard, she is exactly where she needs to be at this very moment. 

And Ivan?  He is kicking a soccer ball around somewhere or maybe sketching a new comic book. “They really helped us out, and they helped my mom out.  When we had no home, they helped us get one, and when we have no food, they help us get it, and life has been better.” 

Either way, we know he is feeling safe and glad that they have the help that they need.  

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