Evann, age two, is busy with his mother’s keys -- swinging them, banging them on the ground as a noise maker and toddling to the mailbox to insert a key into their mailbox to get the day’s mail. “He gets it open sometimes,” says his mother Alycia, whose eyes never stray far from Evann. We are in the courtyard play area at a Central City Concern’s family housing apartment building on a gorgeous fall day.
Alycia and her boys have had this mailbox, and this apartment, for the past year. Here, they’ve had the ongoing support of staff, as well as the reliable help of their neighbors - women in similar circumstances who are embracing a clean and sober lifestyle, going to school and/or working, and doing everything in their power to be good parents. Soon, this young family will move to a more permanent apartment situation. Alycia is ready. (Family selfie at right: Aaden, Gavin and Evann with their mom.)
The 34-year-old mother is clear-eyed about her goals: taking the Oregon test to work as a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) again, a career she had in the state of Washington for eight years, before addiction and chaos took hold of her life.
At age 13, Alycia was already a casual marijuana user; drug use was common within her family. As a senior in high school, her usage shifted to crack cocaine. “I scared my mom so bad for so many years back then. Every time the phone rang, she thought it was the morgue,” she reflects. Her parents intervened and got her into a 28-day rehabilitation center. But it didn’t stick and by age 30, heroin and methamphetamines were her preferred drugs.
As a young adult, Alycia worked and partied. At age 21, she had her son Gavin, but soon her addictions generated so much chaos that she placed him in the care of her mother. Gavin, now age 13, lives with his grandmother permanently; he visits Alycia on weekends.
In 2008, Alycia gave birth to Aaden, now age six. “He was my road dog. He’d ride along with me, my friends and their kids. We used to take him everywhere. I had eight or nine homes over a few years and four evictions. We moved from house to house, couch to couch.” In 2010, she voluntarily placed Aaden with a friend and tried to get clean “on my own.” But without regular support, that effort crumbled.
Then pregnant in 2012, a determined and desperate Alycia walked through the doors of Central City Concern’s Letty Owings Center (LOC), residential treatment for pregnant/parenting women. “LOC gave me a home - that was one of the biggest things. That’s why I couldn’t stay clean before - I didn’t have a place to call home,” she says. “I got to grow and know myself at LOC,” she reflects. “It was my first true recovery work.” Evann was born at LOC and Alycia started taking control of her life. After seven months at LOC with regular counseling, development of parenting and life skills, and ongoing recovery support, the young family moved to nearby transitional housing and then to the apartment they have called home for the past year.
Last holiday season, Alycia and her sons celebrated with other families at the apartment complex. Her two younger children received holiday gifts thanks to donor support, and Gavin got to shop on his own with a donated gift card.
This holiday season, Alycia looks forward to having more family members around as her father will be visiting and she plans on making hand-crafted items with the kids. The future is bright for Alycia and her family. “I have a dozen companies waiting to hire me. Long-term, I want to earn my Registered Nurse certificate in a few years once Evann is in school.” But for now there is Halloween to get ready for (the kids may all go as zombies) and packing to do for her next new home.
Alycia, on what she wants for her children:
“I want them to learn from my mistakes. I want them to have every opportunity that I didn’t have. I want them to go farther than I ever did. I want them to have confidence and security.”