Taking her life back: single mom transitions out of homelessness
SPOKANE, Wash. — Patti Harris says she’s been trapped for years — by so many things. The first was an abusive relationship that lasted eight years.
She says when she was finally able to free herself and her kids from her abuser, it sent her down a path of drug addiction and homelessness. Sadly, in Spokane, the same is true for so many other homeless women.
A spokesperson for Transitions, a non-profit dedicated to ending homelessness for women in Spokane through transitional and permanent housing, tells KXLY over 90 percent of the moms staying there say they’ve experienced domestic violence and it’s one a contributing factor to their homelessness.
When Patti’s partner went to jail, she and her boys escaped — and she finally felt free. But one day, there was a knock at her door she says she “should’ve never answered.”
It was her abuser. He’d found her and the kids.
“He tried to strangle me to death while he raped me, with the kids in the room next door,” she remembers.
Patti’s friend found her and that man has been in jail ever since. Patti and the boys — Julian, 18, Christopher, 13, Cameron, 12, and Caden, 10 — were free yet again, until she found herself trapped by another abusive relationship, drug addiction and selling drugs in hopes of keeping her family afloat.
“In my mind, I was doing the right thing for my kids,” she says. “Saying you know, like, ‘I couldn’t find a job’ but really, I don’t think I was really looking for one because I thought I was taking the easy route and it’s not.”
For four years, they were moving from house to house, from couch to couch.
“It’s terrifying, not knowing if your kids are gonna sleep in a bed the next night or have a roof over their head or somewhere to cook them a meal. It’s hard. It definitely can destroy your soul a little bit,” she says. “We were literally in a tent in a field and after the second night of doing that, I think I just woke up one morning and I was like, ‘I can’t do this to my kids anymore.'”
She thought back to a former coworker who told her she’d be there for her if she ever needed anything. Patti took her up on that promise, knocked on her door, and asked for a ride back to Spokane, where she knew there were so many resources for those struggling with homelessness.
“The things that I feel like I’ve exposed my kids to that no child should ever be exposed to, that’s a terrible feeling. I don’t think I can ever get over that guilt,” Patti says. “It’s hard. I do feel like I took their childhood away, but you know they tell me all the time that they’ve had a great life, regardless of everything.”
She found help at the Union Gospel Mission, at Catholic Charities, and eventually, at Transitions — where she now lives with her sons in an apartment at the non-profits transitional housing.
“You know, I’ve always dreamed of being in a better situation in our own place, but like in the back of my mind, I knew, doing what I was doing, I’d never get there,” she says. “I always dreamt I’d be there, but I guess I just didn’t have faith in myself that I would be.”
She’s been clean for two years. She’s now free from addiction, from abuse, and the guilt she felt trapped in for so long. She’s taken her life back and she finally feels free, right alongside her boys.
“They’re my best friends and I owe them the world and I’m so thankful that they still believe in me,” Patti says. “I’ve done more for myself in the last year and a half being at Transitions than I feel like I’ve ever done for myself, ever, really.”
Now, Patti is focusing on getting out of transitional housing and into permanent housing to give her sons a space like they’ve never had before.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and you’d like to connect with Transitions, click here.
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