By Lauren Hollon Sturdy
MIDLAND, Texas – Ida Torres and her two children lived in fear. Neikedra Butler and her three kids never knew if they were spending the night in a hotel room or a car. Neither family was really living. They were surviving. Just barely getting by.
Torres came to Buckner Family Place Midland three years ago to escape her abusive relationship with her husband of nine years. She was young when they married – a 19-year-old who dreamed of becoming a nurse.
“I’ve always wanted to help people,” she said. “Something in me was attracted to that career.”
Over the years, her husband held her back. As the abuse escalated, Torres realized she had to leave for her safety and her children’s well-being.
“I didn’t want my son to grow up thinking that was OK, or my daughter to follow in those footsteps as well, so it was a matter of getting out of that environment for them,” she said
When she arrived at Family Place, she had a long road ahead to overcoming the damage caused by years of living in a situation of abuse.
“She was so intimidated she wouldn’t speak to anybody,” said Anna Rodriquez, program director for Family Place. “She wouldn’t pick her head up, or say anything, out of fear. She used to stutter.”
Her children had suffered from their father’s actions, too. Steven, 7, was violent and angry when they first moved into Family Place, Rodriquez said. He would lash out at his mom and sister verbally and physically.
Vivian, 12, was guarded and frightened. Torres said when they first arrived both her children would run and hide when anyone knocked on the front door. Today, they’re no longer afraid.
“I didn’t realize it until I got here how bad it really affected them,” Torres said. “They’re more talkative now, and I’ve noticed that they smile. They feel more secure, and they’ve come a long way here, enjoying life.”
“Family Place has helped us a whole bunch,” she said. “I mean, emotionally, there was always prayer. They gave me the confidence that I can do it, that I can finish school and become a better mother.”
Torres has finished her coursework and is preparing for the last step of realizing her dream: taking her state nursing boards.
“I’m almost there,” she said.
Neikedra Butler tried her hardest to make it on her own, raising three kids by herself and trying to reach her goal of becoming a respiratory therapist. But she grew up in a family that often went homeless, and she eventually fell into that pattern.
In 2008, she was sharing a house belonging to her grandfather with several other family members. That spring, her grandfather died and willed the house to Butler’s aunts, so she and her children had to find a new place to stay. The cheapest place she could find was $1,000 a month, and she just couldn’t afford it with the money she made working at a sandwich shop.
She put their things in storage and moved her family into a hotel.
“I got us a room for the length of time that the money would last,” Butler said. “And then every one or two days we’d spend in the car so I could collect more money in order to get another room.”
They spent the summer in Corpus Christi with Butler’s sister, and returned to Midland in the fall so Butler and her children could start school again.
They continued living between hotels and the car, often spending their nights parked in convenience store parking lots or truck stops.
“They were living out of the trunk, basically,” Rodriquez said. “She would wake the kids up really early in the morning, get them cleaned up in the gas station bathroom, drop them off at school and then go to class herself.”
One of her professors told Rodriquez that before Butler came to Family Place, she was awful to be around.
“He said she had the worst attitude and was always unpleasant,” Rodriquez said. “It was because she was under such constant, extreme stress all the time.”
At Family Place, everything changed. Butler could focus on studying and becoming an example for her children.
“Buckner is like a relief,” she said. “That’s what it took for me. It was off my shoulders, where I didn’t have to worry about where we were going to lay at night or anything like that. They gave me a foundation, a home. Everything else from there took off.”
Butler took her state boards last fall and found a job at the Medical Center Hospital in Odessa in Oct. 2010. She has moved out of Family Place and has been accepted into Texas Women’s University in Dallas for a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy.
Buckner Family Place programs are located in Amarillo, Conroe, Lufkin and Midland, Texas. Our other Family Transition Programs include Buckner Family Pathways, located in Dallas, Texas, and My Father’s House in Lubbock, Texas.
To find out how you can support Buckner programs for single-parent families in your area, call 214-758-8000.
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