After a year grappling with addiction and homelessness, Kansas natives Nicole Krovas, 38, and Tiffany Ellsworth-Hailey, 35, had hit rock bottom.
“When we left Kansas, I was at the lowest point that I’ve ever seen myself,” said Tiffany.
In 2018, the couple’s landlord sold their house out from under them, along with 18 other families.
“With Tiff’s social security and what little I made we couldn’t afford the first month’s rent plus a deposit for a new place,” said Nicole. “That’s when we became homeless.”
At first, a friend allowed them to camp out in their garage, which was where they spent most of the summer. When that got to be too much, Tiffany and Nicole camped out by the river with their three dogs.
“Camping was our only option because neither of us have any family to help” said Nicole. “As time wore on, it was getting too cold to camp.”
Flash back to around 1994. When (now Reverend) Rebecca Myers was getting her degree in social work from the University of Kansas, she worked with Tiffany – who was about nine years old – and her grandmother. They stayed in touch with each other and even through the death of Tiffany’s beloved grandmother.
“I lost my rock in 2015 when my grandmother passed,” said Tiffany.
As the weather worsened, Tiffany reached out to Rebecca for help. She put the couple up in a hotel for a while and then suggested that she could do more to help them if they moved to Newport.
“Rebecca did everything that she could to help us and so that’s when she said that we should come here and stay at the church for a little bit,” said Tiffany. “She said, ‘We’ll figure something out.’”
Nicole and Tiffany packed their clothing and some pet supplies into a large duffel bag, grabbed their three dogs, and boarded a Greyhound Bus for their 29-hour journey to Newport. They almost didn’t make it onto the bus because their bag was too big – the bus driver exclaimed that they weren’t a “moving company.” It was about 3:00 am and the two were already stressed out – Tiffany felt desperate.
“I broke down,” she said. “I told the bus driver, ‘we’re moving halfway across the country. This is all that we have. Please, don’t make us give up another thing.’”
“This was the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Nicole.
Shortly after Tiffany and Nicole settled in Newport, Rebecca recommended that they visit PCLC. Neither of the women had a photo ID and Tiffany needed her birth certificate. Without proper ID, access to housing, employment and healthcare would be impossible. Thankfully, PCLC social worker Saranne Miller was ready to help.
“Tiff came here with no ID whatsoever, because her wallet was stolen,” said Nicole. “We had been trying for like two months to get Tiff’s birth certificate and we couldn’t do it. Saranne went to work and got it for her.”
Tiffany gushes with appreciation as she describes how hard Saranne worked to straighten out the mess that was the quest for a birth certificate.
“Saranne didn’t stop at the first hurdle,” said Tiffany. “When she was trying to get my birth certificate, it probably got kicked back to her three times. It took time for her to figure out a way to get it done. She was like ‘I’m not going to stop until we get this done.’”
“It was like magic,” she added. “Two weeks later, my birth certificate appeared!”
Next, Saranne enrolled the couple in PCLC’s National Retail Federation (NRF) customer service classes and Teknimedia® – a course that teaches students how to use the common Microsoft Office products.
“It was a good class,” said Tiffany. “The instructor, Jerry, is so awesome.”
The women sailed through the courses with flying colors and in April, they were both hired at Weis Market in Newport. PCLC partner Amy Reed of Educational Data Systems Incorporated (EDSI) and Saranne helped the pair to get work clothing and shoes.
“We didn’t have many clothes, especially work clothes,” said Tiffany. “Between Saranne and Amy, we got what we needed.”
So much has changed during the past year for Tiffany and Nicole. Both women say that they have accomplished more in the past year than they did in the last three years in Kansas, and they believe that PCLC played a big role in their success.
“In Wichita, when we needed help, their attitude was, ‘Ugh, you’re bothering me,’” Nicole said. “We went on and on for about a month solid about how wonderful everyone at PCLC was. You guys answered all of our questions. You never made us feel stupid and you were never judgmental. You were happy to help.”
“That was the thing – everyone was so polite,” said Tiffany. “And if you didn’t know the answers, you were glad to do research and figure it out. You were never biased against us because of the last person who didn’t make it. We were always treated – and still are – like we are important.”
Tiffany went on to say that she hopes that anyone who is struggling should reach out to PCLC.
“If you need help, come and get it,” She said. “PCLC is here for you.”
Nicole and Tiffany say that they feel like their self-confidence has been restored. In the past, both women remember being afraid, clinging to each other and even their little dog, Y.B., for support.
Tiffany remarked that before, she never went anywhere without the dog.
“One time, Saranne was giving me a test and she asked me to leave the dog at home,” she said. “I was like, ‘Dang – everything that she’s done for me, who am I to tell her no?’ If anyone else had asked me, I would have been like, ‘No dog, no go.’”
“And that was the beginning of her getting her confidence back,” said Nicole.
Now, when the two talk about their future, they know it will be one that’s worth looking forward to.
“Here’s the thing: I actually have hope for a future now,” said Tiffany. “Before, I was at the lowest of the low. Hope was something I could only dream of. Then, when it became apparent that life is so much better – the possibilities of what we could do.”
She continued: “I actually got angry about what I have settled for and been dealing with before I came here. I was stuck. Now I know we can do this. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m at 10,000! I’m good!”