“I went to jail the day before Thanksgiving.” Stephen gazed at me sadly as he told me his story. Stephen had lived in Cincinnati all his life. Many years ago, while on a double date with a friend, he met Nakia who’d just moved here from Massachusetts. They fell in love and a few months later were married. Stephen worked in a local warehouse and Nakia had a job at a halfway house. They had three beautiful daughters. Life was going well until one day Stephen got into trouble with the law.

Stephen found himself caught in the middle of a drug-related legal battle and was eventually incarcerated. In the process, the family lost everything – their home, their car and all of their savings. When Stephen was released from jail, he was put on probation for two years. With a felony on his record, he could not find a job. They moved in with his mother temporarily, but that did not work out. Teetering on the verge of homelessness, Stephen and Nakia walked into the Freestore Foodbank looking for advice and support.

With the assistance of the Freestore Foodbank, they called the Central Access Point (CAP) line and were referred to Freestore Foodbank’s Shelter Diversion Program after Strategies to End Homelessness had put them through a screening process. The Shelter Diversion Program focuses on keeping families out of homeless shelters by providing temporary rental assistance as well as intensive case management and a plan for stability. With the help of the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association, the Freestore Foodbank was able to find suitable housing for the family. They were provided assistance with the preliminary deposit as well as the rent. “I cannot imagine meeting a more compassionate group of people than those who helped us at the Freestore Foodbank,” Stephen remembers. “They are professionals and they treat everyone with kindness and respect. They are careful about who they support and when they provide assistance. So I was fine with the screening that they put us through. I was so thankful that we were able to turn to them for help when no one else was around to offer a hand.”

With a roof over their head, the couple could focus on more important tasks like finding jobs and raising their children. Stephen found a job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant and Nakia started working at a nearby thrift store. That was their first step towards attaining financial stability. Today Nokia and Stephen still live in the same apartment. But they are independent and do not need financial support. The Freestore Foodbank continues to check in on them. In the fall of 2017, they were entered into a book bag raffle and all the girls won backpacks. In December 2017 they were entered into an annual drawing for furniture and ended up winning furniture, pots and pans, lamps and pictures for their home donated by CORT Furniture Rental. “It was like a dream come true,” says Nakia. “The CEOs of CORT as well as the Freestore Foodbank came to visit us on the day the furniture was delivered. I could not believe how nice they were to us.”

Nakia and Stephen will always be grateful to the Freestore Foodbank for supporting them at a time of crisis. “Bad times can come to anyone,” Stephen muses. “I will always be thankful that the Freestore Foodbank is there for people to turn to for help when things go wrong. I am so grateful to them for working with us to keep our family together always and for providing the groundwork to help us become financially stable.” Learn more about the Freestore Foodbank’s stabilization program.