Nicolle’s Story: A U.S. Veteran’s Journey of Survival, Independence, and Hope

Posted on December 18th, 2018

Amaya and Nicolle enjoying a fun moment together

Nicolle and her daughter, Amaya, relocated to Minnesota from South Carolina to be closer to extended family and further her education at a well-known culinary school. 

When their housing with an extended family member fell through, Nicolle and her daughter experienced homelessness for four months, living in a hotel and out of their car during the summer and fall months. Nicolle’s cousin, who worked at an elementary school, connected her with Simpson Housing Services. “I got right into Simpson. There was no waiting list. I got hooked up with a caseworker, and it took a month to find housing,” says Nicolle. Through Simpson’s family supportive housing program, Nicolle was able to have an affordable, safe, and stable place for her family. “It was home for us. We got settled.”     

While experiencing housing challenges, Nicolle took a break from culinary school. She later returned to the program, completed her culinary degree, and secured an assistant pastry chef position at a reputable restaurant.  

Nicolle actively engaged with her Simpson advocate, Kristi, and an extensive network of mental health resources. Nicolle processed emotional trauma, two domestic violence situations, and a past suicide attempt. “Kristi helped me with my emotions. I was able to take advantage of an income-based apartment and specialized medical help for my psychiatric and mental health needs. Kristi helped me connect to so many resources. She got me emergency services, counseling in my home, the crisis nursery for my daughter. She helped me with my paperwork for court. She was there when I needed her,” shared Nicolle. 

Nicolle describes herself as a survivor, getting through extremely painful times. In her words, “Literally, Simpson saved my life.”  

Gaining emotional strength, Nicolle was able to focus on other priorities in her life with the support of several other Simpson advocates.  

Nicolle and Simpson advocate Joylenna

With the encouragement of Simpson advocate Joylenna, Nicolle decided to pursue a new career with more flexible, family-friendly hours. Nicolle attended beauty school and graduated with her degree and an award for perfect attendance. She secured a hairdresser position in a work environment that she loves. Nicolle’s goal is to take classes and pursue a management position with the national salon chain. 

With Joylenna’s support, Nicolle also made a pivotal change in her life situation by getting connected with the Veterans Affairs office. “We took the first step by contacting them and getting my military ID. That opened the floodgates,” says Nicolle, who now receives medical care, financial support, and other resources for U.S. veterans. 

Together, Joylenna and Nicolle developed a detailed plan for budgeting, saving, and eliminating Nicolle’s past debt. Nicolle utilized Simpson’s saving program. She saved over a six-month period, and Simpson matched the first $1000 she saved. 

Simpson’s support extended to Nicolle’s entire family. Early on in Nicolle’s relationship with Simpson, advocate Molly drove Amaya to preschool screenings. Together, they placed Amaya in a good pre-K program and elementary school. Years later, Amaya is a successful student in a local charter school close to the family’s home. Proud mom Nicolle describes Amaya’s growth: “She has blossomed. She’s a grade above average in reading comprehension. She’s so smart. So resilient.” 

Nicolle is grateful to Simpson and the incredible support that six different advocates provided her throughout six-and-a-half years. “I had the right people I needed for every moment in my life,” shares Nicolle. 

Joylenna admires Nicolle’s resilience and dedication to her family. “Nicolle is very strong—to journey through what she has experienced is mind-blowing. I am so proud of her. She shared stories. It helped her to heal. She definitely did what she needed to do for her daughter. I’m honored to have worked with her.”

Nicolle exited Simpson’s family housing program after accomplishing many of her long and short-term goals. She enjoys being independent and having financial freedom. Most of all, she enjoys time with Amaya. Nicolle reflects on her journey and numerous successes: “For the first time in my adult life, I’m on my own. I’m a human again. It feels great. My job is amazing. I’m off welfare, child support, income-based housing, and food stamps. I pay for my own health care. There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment when you are doing it yourself.”