Eviction Leads Cole Family on Journey through Homelessness


Family and faith kept the Cole family strong during times of uncertainty and homelessness.

When you enter the Cole family home you feel warmth, admire the many family photos, and enjoy the enthusiasm of three energetic boys, ages three to ten. You instantly feel the strong love and pride that Shawna and Darin share with their family following an eviction from their apartment a year and half ago.

Mother Shawna had depression and medical difficulties that left her barely able to make it through the day. She hid these problems from her husband. By the time she shared the trials she had been facing, bills had gone unpaid, life had spiraled out of control and they were being evicted from their home.

They found themselves homeless and bouncing between friends’ houses until they exhausted all options. At the end of the school year, Darin, a full time employee with Grand Traverse Industries, stayed in Traverse City and continued to work, while his wife and kids went to stay with family in Grand Rapids. “It was horrible being without my family. Occasionally, I was able to stay with friends, but mostly lived in our van. I kept looking for housing and was continually rejected due to the eviction.” said Darin.

When Shawna and the kids returned to Traverse City at the end of the summer, the family stayed with friends briefly until a room was available at the Goodwill Inn. “I didn’t know what to expect. We were living out of suitcases. Everything we owned was in storage.” explained Shawna. “I was very scared. I had a perception in my mind of what the people at the shelter would be like. What we found were people very much like us. They were scared as well and trying to better themselves.”

With misty eyes, Shawna and Darin agreed that being together was the most important thing, “The Inn gives a person hope when they don’t have anything. It means a great deal.” They were able to all be together in a two bedroom family room, enjoy meals together and spent quality time as a family and really appreciated the playground.

Shawna added “The kids adjusted really well…they did not realize it was a shelter, they felt at home. We all felt welcome – life was as normal as possible.”

Together with their resources and assistance from SAFAH (Supplemental Assistance for Facilities to Assist the Homeless) and Inn family advocate, the Coles were able to clear up their eviction settlement. In the middle of July their prayers for a home were answered as they moved from the shelter to their home.

“The future is brighter,” said Shawna. “We cannot express how grateful we are to have had the Inn to turn to. It needs to have as much support and awareness as possible. When we arrived at the Inn, we could not fall any further…we were at the bottom,” explained Shawna. There is not a moment that goes by that we don’t appreciate everything the Goodwill Inn did for us. The staff was very caring and supportive; we never felt alone.

I really don’t know where we would be without the Inn.”

The Cole family were one of 42 families that called the Goodwill Inn home past year.

Click here to donate to the Goodwill Inn

Click here to view more stories and learn more about Goodwill Homeless and Housing programs.