Below is the story of a former Lydia’s House guest. Her story was shared at this year’s Women for Women event in September, where her story was portrayed by a Cincinnati Shakespeare Company actress. You can read it below if you happened to miss the event. Thank you, Lakeitia, for opening your heart so graciously to tell your story.

My name is Lakeitia, and this spring, living at Lydia’s House helped me bring my family — and myself — back together.

My life shattered four years ago, February 23, 2015, when my mom passed. My whole life, it was just me and my mom, Pamela Rosemond. She was my best friend, my protector, my everything. She was a caretaker, the kind of woman whose door is always open to everyone in the neighborhood, especially the kids. And really, we leaned on each other. When she got breast cancer the first time, I was 8 and I took care of her through that. We found out her cancer had returned the same day my son, Jeremiah, was born. During my pregnancy, I had quit art school and moved back home, and so I became her caretaker again, a full-time, stay-at-home mom for her and my son. She was sick his whole life, but that didn’t stop her from loving on him. That was her baby, and I’m so glad he has strong memories of her. He remembers everything. But eventually, she couldn’t hold on against the cancer. 

Losing my mom turned my world cold. I had to take care of my son, just a toddler at the time, had to figure out how to get insurance policies moving and funeral arrangements made, had to figure out how to pay rent. But all I really wanted to do was sit and not move. Not knowing what was in store for me, not having her here beside me erased my sense of security. Everything just felt like it was falling apart. I was anxious. I was depressed. And then, I was pregnant. 

My mom, in one of the last conversations I had with her, told me I was going to have another baby, a girl. She was right, and I’m so glad, because Ava, my daughter, she looks just like my mom, acts like her. It’s good, hard but good. But during her pregnancy, I was still so depressed. My whole pregnancy we bounced around from house to house: down to Georgia to live with my dad, back up here to different family, back down to Georgia, back up here to live with friends. I think I was looking for the love and security I once had from my mom. I hadn’t yet realized how to turn that around, to provide it for myself and my own babies. 

I’m diabetic, and the further I got into my pregnancy the more complications I had. My daughter was born 6 weeks early, just 3 lb 13 oz. I was so terrified that I couldn’t take care of my children like my mother took care of me. I’d lost all hope and confidence in myself, in anyone. My little family was anything but stable. I was constantly in and out of the hospital for my diabetes, bouncing around still from house to house. Finally, I landed with a friend and was just starting to feel settled when — three days before Thanksgiving — a house fire caused us to lose everything. Clothes, toys — everything, including my job. Even my car had broken down. I thought losing my mom had been the lowest point, but I was wrong: This was my darkest moment. I couldn’t buy Christmas presents for my baby, couldn’t buy clothes, couldn’t buy food. I just felt so terrible. I started to question God and my being the world. If it wasn’t for my children I would have gave up! But I couldn’t. I had to take care of my babies. 

So, even while I was wondering, “What did I do? What did I do to deserve this? How did I go wrong to end up here?,” I started looking for shelters. Every place has a waiting list. Every place is full. But I filled out the application for Lydia’s House, and within three days, I was here on the porch, moving in. I was afraid to step foot in this house. But once I walked through the front door there a calming sense that came over me. This is where I needed to be. 

I was really broken — by grief, by depression, by circumstance — when I came into this house. I was just shattered when I came in, and Meridith and everyone were the glue to my puzzle. They were like, “OK, we have to glue this part, let’s get you to school. OK, now we’re helping you with your mental health. Hey, we’re helping you with your physical health, and now we have the kids, and boom!” They helped me gain my sense as a woman and a mother. After being broken, they put me back together. 

Within a week, I was enrolled in a culinary work-study program at CityLink. They helped me find childcare for my babies, helped me get my physical health under control, helped me improve my mental health. I had been feeling like the world was against me since my mom died, but here, everything seemed to go smoothly. In my three months at Lydia’s House, they helped me get my family back together. They helped get a sense of how I wanted to raise my children, and how I needed to help them. It was hard balancing out me and my kids, and Lydia’s House helped me get an even, healthy balance on that. They helped me how to make myself and my babies feel safe and secure. Meridith helped me find a home for my little family — we moved in August 1st. My kids are enrolled in a school not even ten minutes away from our house, and I graduate from my culinary program in September. My dad, a chef in the Army, is so proud of me, so excited. For the first time, I think he really sees me.  

If I were talking to someone coming to Lydia’s House today, someone like me, who was feeling lost and afraid, I would tell her: It’s OK to feel those things. You have to accept the fact that your world is breaking down, but know that coming to Lydia’s House is a way to build it back up. Use your resources. They will help you. Think about what you need. Don’t think about now. Think about the future, because Lydia’s House will get you to that future.