“We’re going to the store in a little bit, baby,” Brandy says, patiently. She’s speaking to her daughter, Luna, who’s anxious to head out to the grocery store. “She’s gonna be four in June,” Brandy says. “She just started having conversations with us recently, like full on back and forth. One sentence doesn’t necessarily mean one topic,” she adds with a laugh.

Luna has always been Brandy and her husband Josh’s primary motivation for getting a place of their own. Before coming to COTS, the family was living with Josh’s father, a connection made when Brandy, Josh, and Josh’s father were staying at Catholic Charities. Josh’s father started receiving housing assistance, and he asked if they’d move in with him, but the situation was volatile from the start. “From what [Brandy] told me, [Josh’s dad] drank an awful lot,” says Wendy Lindberg, who was the family’s case manager at the Kids First Family Shelter (KFFS). “It was a very abusive situation, and she didn’t feel safe, and didn’t want Luna in that situation.”

Six months after moving in with Josh’s father, things came to a head. “One day he just decided to get in my face over me putting the dishes away wrong,” Brandy says. “He’s not been a great man to my husband or his other kids, but that was the first time he ever decided to do something like that with me. [So] we left ‘cause we didn’t want our daughter to be around stuff like that anymore, and we didn’t wanna be going through it anymore; it just wasn’t healthy for anyone involved.”

Fortunately, Brandy’s uncle and aunt were able to take Luna while Brandy and Josh stayed in their car, figuring out next steps. “That’s when we got ahold of COTS,” Brandy says.

From the moment they arrived, the couple worked hard to meet their goals of getting into permanent housing. Josh was a few months into a plumbing job, and was often busy with work, so Brandy primarily met with Wendy for case management. They worked on daycare and head-start applications for Luna, which both had long wait lists; Brandy, who was unemployed, got a job at Staples within the first two weeks of their stay. 

Eileen Morris, Client Enrichment Manager, assisted the couple with credit repair, helping to eliminate an outstanding Verizon bill from Josh’s credit history, and building Brandy’s credit up with a prepaid, low-limit credit card. “As far as financial help, I didn’t help them a whole lot, because they really didn’t need it,” says Wendy. “I tried to do a few things for them, but they really wanted to do it on their own.” The couple was spending too much on eating out, so Wendy worked with them on budgeting, and making meals at home. “They probably didn’t have a lot of that from their background, cooking, so that was hard for them to learn how to do,” Wendy says. 

During their stay, Brandy began struggling with her job, stating that she felt she wasn’t given enough training for the work she was being assigned. “She was becoming extremely stressed and anxious, at the job and when she got home,” says Wendy. “We discussed options, and she decided to stick it out and to ask for help from Josh, who was very supportive. I also let her know that Luna could come and play with me if she needed some time for herself on her days off.”

“Wendy, she was just amazing,” says Brandy. “She was a friendly face every time, just always asking how we were doing, she totally helped us out. This was a really hard time in our lives, and it helped us out immensely, I couldn’t honestly be more grateful.”

Brandy told Wendy they were considering getting an apartment with Josh’s brother and his fiancé (now wife), which Wendy encouraged them to do. They began applying to places on their own, and just over six months after moving into KFFS, the family found a cozy two-bedroom condo in Santa Rosa to share. “We moved into our new place on New Year’s Day,” says Brandy. “It was a pretty neat way to start the year.”

During their time at KFFS, Josh had gotten a $500 hiring bonus for getting his brother a job, Brandy had been offered full-time with benefits, and between their stimulus checks and Josh’s work bonuses and raises, the couple had been able to save $7000 for their move-in expenses. “They were sober when they came in, probably for at least a few months,” says Wendy, “and they stayed sober, which was amazing; the situation of being homeless is stressful.”

And now? “It’s going well, everything is a lot better,” Brandy says of their new living situation. There’s a park across the street from their complex that Luna loves to play in, and a kitchen for Josh to make grilled cheese sandwiches and sliced apples when Luna gets hangry. They have a dog, Freya, and Luna can watch Mickey and Scooby Doo in their living room. Brandy and Josh are teaching her that it’s okay to be upset and helping her express her feelings and her needs in a productive way. And Brandy and Josh have a loving, supportive place to come home to after work, with a door to close and lock behind them.

“My husband and his family have struggled with homelessness on and off since they were kids,” Brandy says. “I think this is the first place his youngest brother has had to live in maybe four years, so it’s good for all of us. We’re finally in a stable spot, and it’s so good just to be able to look back and say, ‘shit I made it.’” Then she added with a laugh, “I didn’t mean to swear, my bad!”

“Everything is on a better track than I ever thought I’d be able to get myself to,” she says. “That steppingstone that COTS gave us was really, really great, and everything is for the better for it. We finally got ourselves to a point where we can build from, so it’s just up from here. We’re just so appreciative of the opportunities COTS gave us.”