DERRY — When a Salem mother and her three children lost their home last summer, they didn’t know what to do.
Nicole Wain didn’t have a job and had little money.
With help from Family Promise of Greater Rockingham County, the family soon had a place to stay through the nonprofit organization’s network of homeless shelters at 10 local churches.
Now, the family is on the move again, and Wain blames Family Promise.
Most of the family was adjusting to their lifestyle change, she said, but they were suddenly evicted just before Christmas. There was snow on the ground and temperatures were below freezing.
Since Dec. 16, the family has lived at the Red Roof Inn in Salem and the Robert Frost Motor Inn in Derry, where they remain today. Wain expects she will have to move again soon, but doesn’t know where.
“I have no income, no food stamps, nothing,” Wain said. “It’s hard these days to figure out where me and my kids would go.”
They were the third family to be removed from the program for violating policies since it began in January 2013.
Thirty-four parents and children from 10 families found shelter though Family Promise in the last year, according to director Victoria McKinney-Vareschi said. There are currently three families in the program, which does what it can to help families in difficult situations, she said.
Families, who are asked to sign a contract, are forced to leave if a member is violent, uses drugs or alcohol, or is caught stealing, McKinney-Vareschi said. It’s the only way to ensure the safety of others in the program, she said.
In November, Family Promise began requiring parents to submit to drug testing. Teens who are believed to be using illegal drugs must also be tested, but she did not say why the new policy was adopted.
McKinney-Vareschi confirmed that Wain’s family and two others were asked to leave, but said she could not speak about any of the families in the program.
“The timing was horrible — I have sympathy,” she said of Wain’s situation. “I can’t comment. We can’t violate confidentiality.”
After Wain, 34, and her children — now 13, 8 and 5 — moved in Aug. 26, they were happy with the program. They slept at each church for a week at a time and would spend the day at the organization’s center at Calvary Bible Church in Derry. The children would be brought to and from school.
But switching homes and schools was difficult for 13-year-old Breeya, her mother said. The teen would become frustrated and angry.
“She had been having a rough time,” Wain said. “When she would get mad, she would hit me. The director told me she couldn’t stay in the program.”
Wain said she was told the teen would have to live with her father or somewhere else. Otherwise, the entire family would have to move.
It was agreed the 13-year-old would live with her father in Lawrence. But when the girl started hitting her mother the next day and someone else was accidentally kicked while restraining the teen, that was the last straw, Wain said.
The police were called and the family was given 15 minutes to pack up their belongings, Wain said.
“They dumped us at the Red Roof in Salem with $11 and bought us a pizza,” she said.
Family Promise paid for the family to stay at Red Roof for two nights. After that, other arrangements must be made through the welfare office in the family’s hometown, McKinney-Vareschi said.
Arrangements for Wain and her children were made through the Salem human services office, which funded the family’s stay for 30 days.
But that 30-day period ended two weeks ago.
“We had no other place to go,” Wain said. “The town wouldn’t pay for us to stay in a motel anymore.”
She said the family’s only option was to stay in homeless shelters in Lawrence or Claremont — on the other side of the state. But church members came forward and paid for the family to stay at the Robert Frost Motor Inn in Derry for five weeks.
Although the family now has another temporary home, Wain said the ordeal has been tough on her other children, Kamden, 8, and Emma, 5. Breeya continues to live with her father.
Wain isn’t sure what to do when she can no longer stay at the Robert Frost Motor Inn.
She said she’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has a tough time holding down a job while also caring for her family.
Wain said it’s a common misperception that most — if not all — homeless people are drug addicts or alcoholics. But many homeless people do have mental illness, she said.
“There are a lot of people who are homeless who do not take drugs or take alcohol,” Wain said.
She last worked at Bertucci’s restaurant in June.
“I really haven’t been able to do anything with everything that’s going on,” she said.
Since Breeya is with her father, Wain said, she’s not entitled to receive child support from him. The father of her other two children abandoned the family last summer, forcing them into homelessness, she said.
Until her family was evicted, Wain said, she thought the Family Promise program was terrific. They were treated well, she said — until the eviction.
“We trusted them and they threw us out,” she said. “They made us feel like bad people.”