POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 23, 2012
Natasia Pitchford walks almost a mile every night to tuck her son in for the night at her mother's place, then walks back to the YWCA, where she lives temporarily with her younger son.
It beats sleeping in a park.
She tried that for a couple of weeks in Makiki, but then someone jarred her awake and took her belongings. Pitchford ran barefoot to the Y in fear, where "I literally broke down and cried," she said.
Since July she has been staying at the YWCA's Fernhurst Residence for Women, but two days after Christmas her son William turns 5 and house rules don't allow him to live there.
"I have the Christmas blues," she said.
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Pitchford's family became homeless this year when their apartment building was sold and her hours at a fast-food restaurant were cut, she said. They wore out their welcome at friends' homes, then her mother took the boys into her overcrowded house while Pitchford slept on a park bench.
When she moved into the Y, she took William, a special needs child, with her to ease her aging mother's burden. The Y has given her a short extension past Dec. 27 to keep William with her because "they know it's hard," she said.
Pitchford is on the waiting lists of other transitional housing that will allow her kids to be under the same roof, but openings are four or five months away.
"It's hard having them separated," she said.
Visiting hours at the Y are restricted, she said.
She doesn't have a car and got blisters on her feet from walking everywhere until she started getting help from PACT (Parents and Children Together) Family Center in October and got a bus pass, she said.
"I'm just falling apart because it's Christmas. I don't have the savings to get my children anything. We make homemade things to decorate our room to get the Christmas spirit," she said, breaking into tears. "When we're making things, Ethan says, ‘See, Mom, it's family time. As long as we're together. I wish we could be together all the time,'" Pitchford recounted tearfully.
"Every time we go to church, Ethan says, ‘I prayed to God that you would get more hours, that we would get a house.' Like for an 8-year-old to tell me this. He's like, ‘Mommy, it's not always going to be like this. We don't need gifts. We can make cards for each other.'
Besides her $450 rent at the Y, a good portion of her money goes to diapers for William, who is still potty-training, or personal hygiene necessities, she said,
"Sometimes I don't have money to wash clothes. We collect cans to do that, or someone gives me laundry soap."
She said the boys have one sweater each, but no jackets or rain gear.
"They need clothes," she said. "They are growing up like little weeds."
William likes Transformers and wears a boys size 6; Ethan likes remote control toys and is a size 14.
Raising two boys as a homeless mom "just takes a mental toll," Pitchford says, adding, "Sometimes I go into the shower and cry."
William walked in just then and asked, "Mommy, why you still crying?"
She wrapped him in her arms and kissed him.