Ernesta Williams: Unashamed

Ernesta Williams is a mother, and every mother wants to be able to provide a stable home for their family and ensure that they have everything they need. She first arrived at Good News Partners in July 2004 as a resident at our women's shelter. Unlike most of the residents, Ernesta was actually an employee of one at the time. However, when budget cuts and funding becomes unstable - it has a huge impact on those who work there, and this time it meant bad news for Ernesta. Having to care for a family, those cuts caused her to get behind on payments.

Ernesta Unashamed

One day, she came home to find an eviction sign on the door, which meant that she now desperately needed to find shelter for her and her daughter Deja, who was just 4 years old at the time. Knowing how the system works, she began calling around to co-workers and city friends who could help and was ultimately referred to GNP.
 
Being in this new state of desperation and needing to find every flicker of hope that she could, she began attending a weekly bible study that was being held at the shelter led by a group of women volunteers from Main Street Church of Christ in Evanston. Gravitating towards their teaching, Ernesta decided to start visiting their church. A few days after her second visit, a member approached her revealing that the church wanted to assist her by providing an apartment and placed a set of keys in her hand to a four-bedroom English apartment in Evanston. Ecstatic about this new blessing, she eagerly accepted and moved in. Shortly after, however, that building was later destroyed by fire forcing her to come back to GNP. Wanting to remain a beacon of light for Ernesta, the church helped to pay her rent for one year at the Jonquil Hotel. As things seemed to be going okay, she was about to be blessed even more. In 2007, a staff member at the New Life Shelter fell ill and Ernesta was asked to fill in. Coming full circle to where she began, eventually, another position opened up and she was offered a full-time position - as the Resident Coordinator at GNP's New Life Shelter in April 2007.
 
Prior to coming to Good News Partners, Ernesta confesses that she did not trust women and didn't know how to show love, or embrace women due to growing up in a dysfunctional family. Raised by her paternal grandmother, she never had a healthy relationship with her biological mother. Various experiences throughout her life ultimately led to her struggle to connect with women. She recounts that her first experience of "genuine love" was an endearing hug from Jan Neimeyer, a volunteer from Main Street Church in Evanston. "It was as if my heart was crying when she hugged me, and from that day forward - I decided to start giving women a chance". Also noticing that Ernesta and her daughter had only owned one outfit, Jan took it upon herself to take them both shopping so that didn't have to bear that shame. Jan was a great example of using her own power of womanhood and love to lift another woman in need. 
 
Vowing to never treat her daughter how her own mother treated her, she confesses that she believed that saying "I love you" and showering her daughter with gifts was 'love'. She never knew how to truly nurture and embrace her daughter. But after encountering was she describes as 'genuine love', her outlook on love and how she viewed love changed. "I was a parent with a child, but I didn't know how to truly parent a child until I got here."
 
Now being in a position to help lift other women, her approach is to take the position of 'nurturer', emphasize how everyone here is connected by their past of going through similar situations. She chooses to share her own personal story about her struggles with homelessness and how she has overcome, using her own story as motivation for the women who walk through those same doors that she did over 10 years ago.
 
Her daughter, now 18, wants to become a social worker and be a voice for the youth. She learned humility from her own experience from GNP.
 
Having the opportunity to give back and helping just one person because someone took the time with her is what keeps her here today. It was women and mothers who showed her the way and loved her until she was able to learn how to love herself. By sharing her story, Ernesta hopes that people learn how to be humble, give themselves a chance and learn how to not be afraid to open up to people more. The people that you least expect are typically the ones to reach out to help.