“My focus is on the end prize,” says “Kendra,” who arrived at Coburn Place with her three youngest children at the end of December. “2022 is our year.” That prize is a home of their own.
Kendra lives with her two school-age daughters and a toddler son. She was born and raised in Indiana and has family in Indianapolis. Her oldest daughter was born in Lafayette. “Indiana is my home,” she says. “This is where I know, this is where I feel safe, this is where I will kick butt and take names.”
She moved to Indianapolis in April through Coburn Place and the Rapid Rehousing Program. But the housing wasn’t acceptable – there were holes in the walls and water leaks. Her furniture was getting damaged. They didn’t have an upstairs bathroom for the eight months they lived there. And there were gunshots in the complex. Her housing advocate pushed for her to come to transitional housing, and she was grateful.
In less than a month, she found a job, opened her first independent bank account and started working on her mental health. Kendra has a degree and is working on her bachelor’s degree. She works in security, but mostly on the weekends because her youngest has developmental, speech and occupational therapy appointments three days a week. Her focus is on her children.
Before Coburn Place, the family lived under the darkness of emotional abuse and turmoil. “In the beginning, it was great,” says Kendra. “But then he got deep into heroin, and that’s what made things complicated. He brought it into the house. I tried to help him. I thought I could be the one to change him. Because we had the kids, I thought he’d do it for them.” They were together for seven years.
Kendra says there were three sides to her abuser: the nice conservative guy everyone liked, the heroin addict, and the person who just wasn’t home. He stole money from his mother and brother and sold household items and the kids’ things to buy drugs. They lived with his mother, and Kendra worked nights at a hotel – where she and the children sometimes stayed for safety. He would leave home for days at a time, once stealing her car and totaling it.
“When we went to bed when he wasn’t home it was like ‘Ah, we can sleep,’” she says. “But then at 3 a.m., he’d be knocking on the bedroom window and yelling.” When he was home, Kendra says, he was up all night, falling asleep with the stove on, or falling in the bathroom behind a locked door. Once in the middle of the night, they found him naked and motionless on the floor with heroin all around him. They thought he was dead. “My kids have seen a lot,” she says.
The verbal abuse was extreme, and her oldest daughter was targeted, too. “He would tell me I’m a worthless, piece of sh*t mom and my kids don’t deserve me,” Kendra says. “When we were going somewhere, he’d say he hoped the kids and I crashed.” She got out.
“I grew up learning not to ask for help,” she says. “It’s hard because you have to put that guard down with the advocates here and be able to trust them. But it’s not about me anymore. I have children, and I am the role model. I don’t want them to think that’s the kind of man you settle for. If I would have continued with him, what’s that teaching them? I want my girls to grow up to be strong young women who can do it themselves. There’s no limit.”
Kendra says living at Coburn Place is like a breath of fresh air. “This is the first time in seven years I’ve slept in an actual bed and actually slept,” she says. “I always had kids in bed with me because I was scared of what he would do. Or I was up all night because he was banging around. I can go to bed here, shut my bedroom door, and lay down and go to sleep.”
Kendra is making the most of her time at Coburn Place. “I have to be on top of things,” she says. “Two years is going to go fast.” She’s most proud of how well her kids are doing. Her daughters love their new schools. “It’s such an amazing feeling,” she says. Her oldest daughter is not known at school for having a dad who made the news for breaking into cars and stealing change. Her depression and anxiety are much better. She has friends. “Those seven years of us being with him, it put her behind because I couldn’t focus on her needs,” she says. “I was constantly in survival mode, trying to protect my kids.” Her youngest daughter has IBS because of the emotional trauma. “I have a lot of work to do,” she says.
“Kendra has told me numerous times Coburn Place allows her to be the mom and person she wants to be,” says Piper Rowley, her well-being advocate. “Every time, I remind her she is doing all the hard work. We are just here to support her.”
“I am dedicating this year to us,” says Kendra. “I’m saving up to go to Yogi Bear’s Jellystone campground this summer – just a weekend getaway, kind of like a refresh button: ‘This is our family. This is our team.’ We’re still saving for our end goal to be in our own house.”
Kendra has enjoyed the support groups. “The children’s program is amazing,” she says. “They do so much good stuff with these kids. It involves them and lets them know they have a voice, that they mean something. It helps them form relationships with people and learn what a healthy relationship should look like.”
For her, she appreciates the support she has found at Coburn Place. “It’s just knowing you’re not alone and there’s always somebody here. You have the safety that you feel you can go to anyone and they are there for you. The staff makes you feel like part of the family. They go above and beyond.”
When they first moved in, they were scared and didn’t know anybody. “You have to come in with that positive attitude that this is your life and this is how you want things to change,” says Kendra. And she is determined. “I don’t set long-term goals. I set three-month goals. I had all my goals for three months accomplished within two weeks of moving here.”
Eventually, she and her oldest daughter would like to travel around and tell their story to let people know there’s hope and help. “Don’t ever think you’re alone because you’re not,” she says. “You have to find your voice. You have to find the confidence in yourself and find your self-worth and know you mean more than what you’re going through or what is knocking you down.”