Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Beating Homelessness: A survivor's story


With only her clothes in tow, 19-year-old Angel Mitchell thought she would leave her homeless roots behind in Chicago for a better life in the Quad Cities.
“After I graduated high school, my adoptive mom said she couldn’t afford to keep me and my sisters unless we got jobs,” said Mitchell. “To be honest, I knew my sisters wouldn’t help my mom out with the rent. So, we all had to go.”
After her graduation in 2013, Mitchell understood she had to find a new home or be on the streets. She asked one of her 10 biological siblings for help,
Mitchell’s older brother had brought her on trips to the Quad Cities in the past and said if she ever needed help, she could live with him. She took him up on his offer, unaware of his ulterior motives.
In June, Mitchell made the move to Moline and began reconnecting with some of her other biological siblings who lived in the Quad Cities.
Within a few weeks of staying with her brother, he tried getting Mitchell to move in with their other disabled brother to be his full time caretaker.
“I was like I can’t do that,” said Mitchell. “I’m only 19, and I don’t think I could handle that type of responsibility, especially since I’ve never been on my own before.”
Mitchell’s brother never directly told her he wanted her to move in with her other brother
“Before I even got out here, he was telling people that me and my disabled brother were going to move in together,” said Mitchell. “I was like why are you telling people this?”
Mitchell told her brother she would not become a caretaker. She said that’s when things starting going downhill.
“Living with him was like living with a completely different person,” said Mitchell.
Despite tensions with her brother, Mitchell got her first job at Burke Cleaners to save money and have time away from household arguing. Until one day, the argument escalated.
“In the morning, I woke up to a text from him telling me I needed to clean the kitchen,” said Mitchell. “And, he also said he wanted me to start paying some bills. I only made 400 dollars. I don’t make that much.”
Appeasing her brother, Mitchell cleaned the kitchen, but could only do so much before having to leave for work.
On her walk to work, Mitchell received countless texts from her brother asking why she didn’t clean up the entire kitchen. He then followed her in his car, dropping hints the living arrangement wasn’t working out and that he was going to pack her stuff.
She was dropped off at her brother’s home after work around 11 p.m. to find her belongings sitting in the front yard.
“My stuff was outside the whole day,” said Mitchell. “He had the door locked and wasn’t going to actually talk to me.”
Knowing she was homeless for the second time, Mitchell asked her adoptive family in Chicago if she could come back and stay with them, but they didn’t have room to house her.
“I just wanted to go home,” said Mitchell. “I just thought why could I not go home? And in that moment, I was scared. I was crying, and I was like what the hell do I do now?
Luckily, Mitchell was able to stay with a friend but still knew she had to get back on her feet somehow.
At work, Mitchell heard about a place called Project NOW that helps homeless individuals get back on their feet.
Mitchell’s caseworker Corretta Nunn said she was impressed with Mitchell the first day she walked through the door at Project NOW.
“She didn’t have any criminal background or anything,” said Nunn. “When she came in, she looked like she was coming to apply for a job. So I said let’s see what this girl is about.”
Mitchell enrolled in Project NOW’s transitional living home program in September of 2013 and was placed in October.
According to Project Now’s website, transitional housing participation can be as long as two years and participants are required to attend school or work. They must also abstain from using drugs.
At the time, Mitchell worked at Burke’s Cleaners, started a second job as a janitor at John Deere, and enrolled at Black Hawk College. She also took classes to get her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license.
Mitchell worked at Rosewood Nursing Home in East Moline as a CNA, but then got a job at Friendship Manor in Rock Island that is close to the home she rents from Project NOW.
“I made it,” said Mitchell.
Although Mitchell said she enjoys her job as a CNA and once had dreams of becoming a registered nurse, her career goals have changed due to Nunn’s guidance.
“Now, I am thinking about being a physical therapist or actually counseling people in a way like Corretta,” said Mitchell. “She was a big emotional help and really easy to talk to, like a mom.”
Nunn has been a youth caseworker for over 20 years and considers Mitchell to be a true success story and role model for other homeless youth.
“I’ve been at Project NOW for three years, and I’ve had three success stories out of 24 people, but one of the three fell back into the homeless situation,” said Nunn.
Holding a spot as one of the three success stories, Nunn also believes Mitchell would make a great caseworker one day.
“Angel is a people person, but the other thing is she is very caring,” said Nunn. “She’s a nourishing type individual. Because what Angel does is look at people for who they are, and she doesn’t judge people.”
Mitchell said she refrains from criticizing others that are homeless, but believes they should never solely rely on others for help.
“The truth is no one owes you anything,” said Mitchell. “You owe to yourself to either sink or swim.

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Beating Homelessness: A survivor's story