Nancy remembers the moment everything changed. She woke up in the hospital, the aftermath of an abusive relationship that had reached its breaking point.

“I remember looking in the mirror, I looked bad and it scared my daughter,” she said. After fleeing the father of her child, the 53-year old Waukesha resident and her young daughter Anastasia found themselves suddenly homeless.

They went to the Women’s Center in Waukesha for emergency shelter and after 30 days moved into the United Way-funded Transitional Living program.

“Anastasia was just a baby when we came here, and kids with Downs Syndrome aren’t good with change,” said Nancy. “For a while Anastasia kept asking me ‘Mom are you okay?’ ‘Are you going to keep me safe?”

“The Women’s Center is the only program of its kind in Waukesha County,” said Angela Mancuso, Executive Director of Women’s Center. “We provide safety, shelter and supportive programing for adult and child survivors of domestic violence.”

The program provided Nancy and her daughter with an apartment with rent they could afford. That allowed Nancy to go back to school and pursue a degree in the veterinary field, a passion she hadn’t been able to pursue until now.

“I grew up on a farm and just love all animals, my daughter loves them too,” Nancy said.

“From domestic violence to foreclosures, United Way’s Community Fund supports financial stability programs that address the root causes of a person’s homelessness and responds to his or her immediate basic needs,” said Shannon Reed, Financial Stability Portfolio Manager at United Way. “By supporting these programs all of us give survivors like Nancy an opportunity to see what is possible and help her live a better quality of life.”

“We want to avoid moms and kids being homeless, we want to avoid them moving into their car, and without United Way funding I don’t think that would be possible,” said Mancuso.

Nancy graduated with highest honors from Milwaukee Career College and became a certified Veterinarian Technician. Today, she and daughter Anastasia live in their own apartment in Waukesha. As you can imagine it’s filled with many pets.

“We have a few fish who are named after the characters in the Disney movie Tangled, and I also have a pretty green and yellow parakeet named Jewel.”

Last year, 85% of women residing at the Women’s Center shelter attained individual goals such as employment, parenting skills and budgeting within six (6) months of entering the program. 96% who utilized United Way-funded housing services were able to maintain secure safe and affordable housing.

Nancy is grateful to the Women’s Center and United Way for giving her an opportunity to turn her life around and give her daughter the life she deserves.

“This place means everything to us,” she said.

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© 2020 United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County is a 501(C)(3) Nonprofit registered in the US under EIN: 39-0806190.