Four lives changed
“She’s a great mom!” Caleb says about his partner, Cadence. It’s true, toddler Nicholas and baby Gemma obviously thrive in her care, and Cadence glows with love for them. If you had met her a few years ago, however, you might have questioned her ability to raise a family. And Cadence probably wouldn’t blame you.
“I was homeless my whole life,” she explains. The 20-something says she never knew her mother, who was addicted and in and out of prison. Her father had his own struggles, raising Cadence as best he could with some help from grandparents.
When she was a teen, Cadence’s father decided to drive down from Skagit County to California. Life took a turn for Cadence, and not for the better. She wanted to finish high school there but was unable to make it happen. And she got into drugs.
Back in Washington
Cadence came back to Mount Vernon at age 17 with a serious habit. “I used every day for four years,” she admits. When she met Caleb, she was in active addiction and hid it from him for a time. “I didn’t want to tell him all my flaws.”
Caleb figured it out, of course, and fell into using drugs too. “It didn’t go well,” he grins. Caleb had his sights set on becoming a journeyman electrician but found it difficult to hang onto a job. He was receiving unemployment, and the couple lived in a rental house. Caleb was depressed much of the time, and the two felt as if everything they tried seemed to go wrong.
Eventually losing that home, Caleb and Cadence stayed with friends, lived in a car, and paid for hotel rooms when they could. Then Cadence became pregnant. Caleb was recognizing the need to change, but “I continued to use,” Cadence says. She realized she needed help to get sober and applied for a program. Her bags were packed and Cadence was ready to go when Covid shut her program down. She continued to look for organizations that might assist her, but she was also scared her baby would be taken away because she struggled with addiction while she was pregnant.
Birth on a Birthday
Cadence and Caleb spent “the last money we had” on a stay in a motel in Mount Vernon just before Cadence was again about to enter a program. Unexpectedly, she went into labor. Nicholas was born in October on Caleb’s birthday – a month early. In complete honesty, Cadence says she even used drugs before labor began on the day of her son’s birth.
The moment she saw Nicholas, however, everything changed. “He is SO handsome,” the young mom cried as they placed him in her arms. “I was in shock,” she remembers. Holding her son, Cadence was determined to find a program that would accept her immediately. She decided to work with the Didgwalic Wellness Center, a Swinomish program that serves everyone. Cadence took advantage of medication therapy, counseling, and dental services.
Didgwalic provided daycare for Nicholas too. Cadence had been told her son might miss some developmental milestones. “That was the hardest thing for me,” she says, through tears. Fortunately, it was not to be. Her active boy walked at 11 months and explores nonstop. “He’s such a happy guy,” says his dad. Cadence tells how Nicholas shouts with delight and runs to Caleb when he walks through the door after work.
As a brand-new mom, Cadence had also contacted Nina at the Family Center. Nina found a hotel room for a temporary stay for the family, then Cadence, Caleb, and Nicholas moved to the Emergency Shelter. As the family settled in, joy and optimism grew. Cadence remembers that Caleb asked her to marry him on her birthday, “in the sweetest way.” She adds, “I have fallen even more in love with him over the past months – he is such a loving and dear father.”
Life at the Family Center
Cadence and Caleb have been with the Anacortes Family Center for more than a year, now in transitional housing. Along with Nicholas and new baby Gemma they feel at home, and Caleb appreciates the security the buildings provide.
Cadence welcomes the Life Skills classes she attends at AFC. She realizes that her upbringing gave her none of the training she needed – from cooking to budgeting. She has also earned her GED, and she recently celebrated 1½ years of sobriety on Nicholas’s and Caleb’s birthday. “We have achieved many goals,” Cadence says, “Having healthy, happy kids, living in a stable environment, and starting a savings account.”
Caleb talks in terms of 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year plans. For the near future, the family will stay in AFC’s transitional housing where the organization banks the majority of the rent the couple pays to give back when Caleb and Cadence graduate.
The family will move to the new building under construction on 26th Street, Landing Apartments, when it’s finished. Working as a marine mechanic now, Caleb’s focusing squarely on “getting solid and building good habits" with bills, savings, and other aspects of everyday life. He hopes that owning a home might be in the couple’s future.
Having been through so much at such young ages, Cadence and Caleb share their story to help others and to show appreciation for the Family Center. Says Caleb, “AFC has changed our lives.”