Living in a Shelter is Tough with Kids

Midwest City family has been living in a shelter at the United Methodist Church since her home was destroyed by the May tornadoes
“The mental and emotional support has been amazing”

Heather Crawford feels like she hasn’t closed her eyes in three weeks. The Midwest City resident has been living in a shelter at the United Methodist Church since her home was destroyed by the May tornadoes. Her husband Allen is a great help, but keeping track of her two young children in an unfamiliar setting has proved a challenge.

Terry, called TJ, age 8, and Hope, age 2 ½, are normal, active kids. For TJ, especially, having other kids to play with and sleeping on a cot are exciting. Hope is a curious toddler, always wanting to wander away to explore. Crawford says, “TJ is having a blast. He thinks it’s all a vacation. Mommy and Daddy just want to go home.”

TJ gave 2 thumbs up to riding in a boat and then a Humvee when his family evacuated from their neighborhood, even though it was a little scary. His experiences in the shelter rated 1 ½ thumbs up but, like his parents, he gave the idea of going home an enthusiastic 3 thumbs up, borrowing one hand from his mother.

The stress of losing their home and their car was enough to land Crawford in the hospital overnight. Knowing her kids were in an unfamiliar setting–without her–added even more to her sense of panic. She says that the doctor wanted to keep her for one more day, but “he realized that was only going to make my stress level go up even more.”

Crawford is worried about many things, but one particular concern was that the family wouldn’t be able to celebrate TJ’s birthday on Tuesday. Once the word got out, though, that there was about to be a birthday boy in the shelter, 3 people came in with birthday cakes, and Chuck E. Cheese donated a party for TJ.

Crawford is grateful to the American Red Cross and other agencies for having a safe place to sleep and food for her children. What stands out to her, though, is less tangible. “The mental and emotional support has been amazing,” she says. “From the beginning there’s been someone to talk to.” She adds, “If I said thank you 100 times a day for the rest of my life, it still wouldn't be enough."