Monday, December 19, 2016

12 Days of Hope: For this family, Christmas 2016 is so much better than 2015

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Wow, what a difference one year makes for Shawnekeque Huggans and her family.

Shawnekeque is quick to offer her thanks and share her story.
On Saturday, December 10, the Huggans family was invited by the Monumental Foundation’s Family-to-Family Christmas party. For a few hours, Shawnekeque laughed and watched her two little girls get face paint, play floor hockey with Justin Williams and Daniel Winnick, wear balloon jewelry and visit with Santa. And, perhaps most exciting, they went home with a lot of Christmas presents courtesy of the staff and players.

The moment must have felt so far from where the young family was last year.

Last December, Shawnekeque lost her job after her high-risk pregnancy with twins put her on bed rest. Soon after, she lost her apartment and found herself homeless with two little girls and two more on the way. They turned to DC General Family shelter with nowhere else to stay.

“It was a nightmare. My daughters hated it,” Shawnekeque said. “I had to get us into something more stable.”

Then in May, her twin baby daughters were born early at 34 weeks. During their two-week stay in the neo-natal unit, Shawnekeque met with Sr. Bernadette Longtin at Catholic Charities TEN program. By the time the twins were ready to come home, Shawnekeque had been accepted into the program.

The TEN Program works with homeless families over the course of two or more years to overcome homelessness. Each family is provided their own apartment in a community and works closely with case managers. 

Overnight, the family was moved into a fully-furnished apartment and began working closely with Catholic Charities staff. There were many health complications for the twins related to their premature birth. Shawnekeque tried to go back to working part-time, wanting to be able to provide for her family, but her twin babies needed her too often and she had to stop working her job as a cashier at a local grocery store.

“I tried to be super mom for my daughters, but I couldn’t do it. I was taking off too much time for their health needs,” Shawnekeque said. “My two older daughters were happy I was home more, but I told them it meant we wouldn’t be able to afford Christmas gifts. That’s why the help from Catholic Charities and Monumental was such a gift.”

All four daughters together - including the new baby twins!
Her goal now is to help ensure her twin babies keep overcoming their health challenges. They are both slowly getting better, though one baby struggles with frequent breathing issues that have sent her and Shawnekeque to the emergency room at Children’s National Medical Center more than a few times in the middle of the night. Still, Shawnekeque hopes to get back to work this year. She wants to provide more stability for her family and for herself.

“I really, really appreciate everything Catholic Charities has done for me and my family. They’ve made everything better. When we came to Catholic Charities, we didn’t have anything at all – no food, no furniture. Catholic Charities helped us with everything.” 

Feeling inspired? 
You can donate to Catholic Charities TEN Program right here!