Finding a House, Making a Home

Since opening its doors in February, Bethlehem Housing has served thirty families, including Ms. Jalessa who was referred by a church parish in Alexandria to Archbishop Aymond. Jalessa has been trying to balance the responsibilities of parenting seven children, but her challenges have been adding up since her 5-year-old boy, Ace, is battling brain cancer for the second time.

The family moved from North Louisiana to New Orleans to be closer to Children’s Hospital for Ace’s ongoing chemo treatments, but after living in six hotels for seven months, they no longer were able to afford the bill. A traditional family shelter was not an option because of Ace’s fragile health condition, and they had exhausted all other options.

When Bethlehem Housing staff met Jalessa, she did not have plans for housing, but she knew she could no longer sustain the $400 per week hotel stay. Jalessa describes that time as hell. “My whole life was stress. I couldn’t think. We were always hiding the kids from the hotel staff because they only allowed four kids in the room, not seven.”

With the guidance of Bethlehem Housing, Jalessa explored several options and found a house that was large enough for her family and close to the hospital. Earlier this month, Jalessa and her children moved into their own home. The children finally have their own toys again with room to play, and Jalessa has peace of mind about the stability of her family.

Jalessa explains, “It’s so peaceful to be in our own home after living in hotels for so long. I can relax now. I don’t have to worry about where we are going to be next. It’s the best thing that has ever happened in my life.” She shared that when Ace first saw the house, he cried walking from room to room and could not believe the house was theirs. She reports there is a difference in the children’s behavior, saying, “In the hotels, the kids were all over the place. Now they are more respectful. They are happy.”

The flexible funding of the Day One Families Fund allowed CCANO to serve this family in the unique ways they needed and prevented the additional trauma of a shelter stay for a very sick little boy and his siblings. CCANO was able to finance car seats for the safety of the youngest children, assist with utilities so the family could have electricity and water, and transfer the family’s belongings from storage.

Now, Jalessa’s family has a place to call home and a stable base for dealing with the emotions and logistics involved in caring for a child with a serious illness. CCANO will continue to work with Jalessa to address the many obstacles ahead, and she now has a team to support her on this journey to family well-being.

Ms. Jalessa affirms, “Now that I see Ace is happy, I can be happy. God made a way.” Learn more about Bethlehem Housing here.