In May, Shameka Pickett and her two teenage sons could no longer afford housing at the Budget Inn. They were homeless.
Five months later, the Picketts are transitioning out of Genesis Home, a temporary housing facility at 300 N. Queen St., and moving into a three-bedroom townhouse.
Pickett recalled moving to Genesis Home, saying, “We knew at that point that everything would be okay.”
Despite facing many challenges, Pickett said her boys and her faith have kept her going.
“God is my strength. He is my all in all,” said Pickett. “Without him I don’t know where I’d be.”
A Difficult Past
The family started living in the Budget Inn to escape a neighborhood in Durham where violence and crime were prevalent.
“I was scared for my kids, said Pickett. “It was dangerous because people had been robbed and shot sitting on their front porch.”
The breaking point was when Rhamir, 13, was caught in crossfire on the way to the store one night. He was not injured, but the shooting frightened the whole family.
The next morning they packed up everything they could carry on her backs, leaving behind many belongings, including family photos, Pickett said.
For eight months, the Budget Inn became their home because Pickett was laid off at her job and unable to find another. The family was living on her disability benefits from a herniated disc injury she got on the job.
When their money ran out, the Picketts were out of options.
“My mom was crying, and she didn’t know what to do, so we moved here,” said 16-year-old Darrius.
A Special Kind of Home
Genesis Home provides a place for families to regroup and rebuild, said Executive Director Ryan Fehrman.
Opening in 1989, Genesis Home was the first place in the area to provide shelter for the whole family, said Fehrman. Genesis was established by Durham Congregations in Action in order to fulfill that need.
“We think it’s important in a crisis situation for families to stay together,” said Fehrman.
The home houses 12 families, and they become very close, said Assistant Program Director Kisha Lunsford.
“It’s just a regular family but a cluster of families,” said Lunsford. “It’s like a village when they come here.”
Besides providing a place to live, Genesis offers a variety of supportive services to residents. Among these include financial training, support groups, job preparation, and tutoring for children, said Lunsford.
Genesis Home also serves as the designated referral resource for families in more difficult situations, said Fehrman. Those who have struggled with disabling conditions, substance abuse, and mental illness are welcome at Genesis.
Pickett and her family are part of a program called Turning Point that provides supportive services for these special cases, which Genesis offers through a grant, said Fehrman.
Turning Point provides care for families who have suffered from drug abuse, mental illness, or a disabling condition, said Pickett.
She is diagnosed with severe depression and has had issues with drug abuse in the past, but has been clean since 2008.
Pickett is taking classes to become a certified peer support counselor for those who suffer with drug abuse, ensuring she will get a job that can support her family.
For her though, it is about more than the money. She is glad that her story can provide motivation for others quit using drugs as well.
“Every person who does drugs is covering up something in their life, some pain,” said Pickett.
She hopes to help others acknowledge that pain and work towards recovery just as she did.
A Bright Future
Genesis allows families to relax and be a family again, said Darrius.
“Genesis Home, they brought us together…And now we get help to get back on our feet once we move out,” said Darrius.
As part of the program, Turning Point will pay the rent for the first year in their townhome, giving Pickett time to provide her family with a secure financial future.
Pickett said after everything they’ve been through, she feels good about the future again.
“I’ve waited for so long and now it’s finally here and it’s right what I needed when I needed it,” said Pickett.
Upon seeing her townhome for the first time, she beamed with joy. She couldn’t help but to raise her hands to the ceiling in praise.
Pickett said she can’t wait to watch movies and play games in the new place with her sons, whom she calls her best friends.
“It felt so good to see the beautiful place, and it’s ours,” said Pickett. “It’s perfect for me and my boys.”