DOWN BUT NOT OUT
Everyone begins the race of life at a different starting point, and the track isn’t always as linear as we’d like it to be. It’s riddled with obstacles, setbacks and detours. Sometimes we lose the path altogether. But for Cari Hansen staying the course, finding the path again, and trusting her St. Vinnie’s team has made the difference in getting her closer to that finish line.
Cari’s journey with St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) began in 1995. Recently single and pregnant with her first child, Cari was homeless and utilizing family shelters throughout the community. She enrolled her daughter in SVdP’s First Place Family Center (FPFC) preschool program, First Place Kids, while she attended the Second Chance Renter’s class also offered by SVdP. Cari was able to get into housing through the support of both programs and her own hard work.
When no longer homeless and pregnant with her third child, Cari continued her journey with SVdP — this time as an employee. She began work in one of St. Vinnie’s early retail locations and quickly found professional growth in the organization; she became an assistant manager at a second store within six months. After two years in that role, Cari helped open two more St. Vinnie’s locations across the area where she continued as an assistant manager.
Riding the momentum of her success, Cari decided it was time to return to school. But raising three daughters while working full-time is enough work for most anyone trying to attend classes, so she made the decision to part ways with St. Vinnie’s and focus on her education.
But as we said, life isn’t always a linear climb. Two years into her educational journey, Cari relapsed into substance abuse. She quickly found herself back where she’d started. Cari returned to living on the street, her children placed in the care of family.
But if there is one defining trait about Cari, it’s her willingness to never give up on herself. She began attending treatment and once again found herself utilizing St. Vincent de Paul’s services at FPFC. Cari found work with the Relief Nursey as a Peer Support Specialist and spent the next five years in that role while also rebuilding her life.
SECOND CHANCES AND GIVING BACK
Another series of setbacks and interpersonal struggles, and Cari once again found herself homeless and back to square one. She started work as a bartender, but in 2019 she finally decided she’d had enough.
“I wanted to change myself,” Cari says. “I wanted to change my life. I was drinking, I was smoking, and it just got to a place where I couldn’t take it!”
Cari took action. She got sober and began sending submitting applications everywhere she could while still working where she could and using SVdP programs. Eventually that brought her back to St Vinnie’s, where she applied to return to the organization as a store manager. Her resume and story did catch the attention of people at SVdP, but it wasn’t in the stores where Cari found her next journey. It was with the agency’s Veteran Services Team.
At three years sober, Cari came on board as a case manager with the SVdP-administered Support Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. Cari says it was a great opportunity to get back into the business of working with people. The daughter of a Veteran herself, she says she can relate to the experience of dealing with trauma.
“It just warms my heart to give back and to help those that are suffering. When you feel like you have nothing left in the world and no one cares, just having one person that seems like they care enough to try and help you find housing — That’s why I’m doing it.”
Her commitment early on was a huge success. Within her first month Cari found housing for two Veterans. “That first one that you get housed … I was in tears,” Cari recalls.
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Now, as we approach the holiday weekend, Cari tells us it will be the first time she’s celebrated Christmas with her family in eight years.
“Holidays to me and my family are about healing and spending time with each other eating foods made with lots of love, and blessing our neighbors with pies and yummy foods,” she says. “Most importantly, spending time with my parents who are elderly, and I don’t want to miss another moment with them or my children who are now also having children!”
Cari’s journey is one of many woven into the fabric of life experiences here at SVdP — a place of second chances and opportunity. Whether it’s utilizing one of our many programs to rebuild lives from scratch or a career opportunity to help give back to the community we serve, the mission stays the same.
Cari is St. Vincent de Paul, and this is what community means to us.
To support First Place Family Center which helps countless others like Cari click here: First Place Family Center | St. Vincent de Paul (svdp.us)