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Diana grew up in a big family on the west side of Chicago, raised by her grandmother. After getting her GED she started working, found a studio apartment, and had three children with her partner.

The family moved to the Twin Cities about seven years ago because they believed life would be better here- Diana’s sister lived in St. Paul. They stayed with her until they were asked to leave because there were too many people in the apartment- but the family had nowhere to go.

Diana’s sister had also dealt with homelessness in the past and stayed at The Family Place shelter downtown St. Paul, so Diana, her partner, and kids went there too.

“We could at least all stay together,” she said. “But the kids showed a lot of emotion when we went to the shelter, a lot of anger. That was tough.”

After a few months, the family left and once again tried to live with Diana’s sister as well as stayed with friends. Two years later, they found themselves back at The Family Place, this time with five kids- Diana and her partner had two more children after moving to Minnesota.

“It was a terrible time,” she said. “My kids have been through a lot. I haven’t always made the best decisions, and my kids have suffered.”

While at the shelter, Diana heard about Neighborhood House, one of Greater Twin Cities United Way’s 15 housing providers that help families in crisis by finding them a safe, stable residence to rebuild. She made the phone call, realizing, “I had to do the work- nobody was going to do it for me.”

United Way made a direct impact on Diana’s life through Neighborhood House, where family coaches worked to identify the family’s needs and create a plan to help them achieve their goals.

“I was in the shelter when I got the call they found a home for us and I cried,” Diana said. “Neighborhood House came through and helped me pick up all the pieces. For the first time, I had people that really cared about me and my kids.”

Along the way, Diana ended her relationship and became a single mom to an 11-year-old boy, 9-year-old twin girls, a 6-year-old girl, and a 4-year-old girl. In March 2018, they left the shelter and moved into a townhouse in East St. Paul- where they now have a place to call home.

Throughout it all, Diana is most proud of keeping her family together. She found a part-time job working for a security company and hopes to keep advancing and making a higher wage. She keeps her kids focused on doing well in school.

“I am thankful to Greater Twin Cities United Way and Neighborhood House because otherwise we wouldn’t have the home we do today,” said Diana. “I went through hard times, but I couldn’t give up because of my kids. I would tell others hard times don’t last and not to give up.”

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