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021311 homeless 4
Once a personal care attendant for a man with cerebral palsy, Andrea Galloway is now unemployed and homeless. “Whenever I get down, I look at the sky and I think, if he can get up and go to work every single day with his disabilities, I sure can get up and face the world,” says Galloway. “He inspires me.” Photo by LINDA THOMPSON/Missoulian

When Andrea Galloway had a home, she grew sunflowers in the yard.

She hung her family's clothes on the line to dry because she liked the smell and it kept the house cool. She did the books for her husband's construction company, and she ran a day care.

Then came a premature baby and medical bills.

Then bankruptcy. Domestic abuse. Divorce. Alcohol abuse.

A job that disappeared.

"I could have never dreamed that I would be here: single, raising my kids alone and in a motel room for 50 days," said Galloway, 36. "I never would have dreamed it."

But there she was in the motel room on Brooks Street that's been a kitchen and bedroom, a place for homework and paperwork and shelter for the Superior native and her children, ages 13, 11 and 8.

There she was, homeless, No. 229 on the state's waiting list for help, yet grateful all the same. Before she lost her job, Galloway worked as a personal care attendant for five years, and her main client, now a friend, has cerebral palsy.

"Whenever I get down, I look at the sky and I think, if he can get up and go to work every single day with his disability, I sure can get up and face the world. He inspires me," Galloway said.

In many ways, Galloway is the picture of homelessness in Missoula. She's not a transient. She's not camped out by the Oxford's door, or begging for change outside Albertsons. She's a mother, a woman who had a home, a job, a life.

And when Galloway has a home again, she may grow sunflowers once more. She'd also be happy to live in an apartment with no yard because she's busy, and she has plans to be even busier, helping organizations like the Parenting Place that helped her and her family.

"I made a tater tot casserole for them. If I ever get in the position, I'll do more for them."

*****

In Missoula 14 years, Galloway's most recent job was as a personal care attendant. She had just gotten divorced and needed work while she went back to school. The hours were flexible.

"And the pay is pretty good, actually, for Missoula and for women without an education. I was making $11.02 an hour, which is pretty high compared with minimum wage," Galloway said.

But then her client switched companies. Galloway said she'd seen the new company treat employees poorly, finagle ways to withhold gas money, and leave clients abandoned in their beds far too long. She couldn't stomach it.

"I think people deserve better health care, especially if they're paying for it," she said.

She and her family were living with her boyfriend, and the couple was on the rocks and behind on rent. They broke up on her birthday, Aug. 28, and Galloway, convinced she wouldn't be able to pay rent on her own, packed up her children and left.

They moved in with a friend.

The kids found needles, so Galloway picked up and moved them again.

They couch-surfed, one child on one couch, another on a sofa somewhere else.

Around Thanksgiving, they moved in with another friend whose house already overflowed with friends and family on hard times.

Then, around Christmas, Galloway got word the YWCA Missoula had an emergency housing voucher open for her. The family could spend 50 days in a room at the Southgate Inn, the same place for seven weeks.

"That's certainly been a lifesaver," Galloway said.

The schools aren't calling her as often telling her to pick up one of her children for being suspended.

"They've calmed down so much."

On the YWCA's waiting list, Galloway is No. 5 to spend 18 months in transitional housing.

"I refuse this time to leave Missoula because I want to stay here. For one thing, I want to get back to school," Galloway said.

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*****

Friday was day No. 50.

Galloway found herself without a home once before, and last time, her children were with their father. She camped in Superior then, and she drank too much and smoked dope.

This time, she's sober, has been for nine months.

"It's worth a celebration because alcohol is a beast in my family," she said.

This time, Galloway has gained pride in her independence. She won't rely on a man again to take out the trash or help pay the bills. She tackled her own broken brake light.

"I had to call my dad down in Arizona and get advice over the phone. And I fixed it. I was so proud."

This time, seeing how well she and her children were doing, a friend who had faced many of the same obstacles picked up the tab for the family to spend another week at the motel.

It's seven more days of a tenuous stability, a small but warm and certain place to sleep and clean up and do homework before her family rises to the top of waiting lists she said are much too long.

From the window of the room where Galloway fills out reams of paper and makes phone calls to ask and answer questions about this document or that program, she sees families with bigger mountains to scale.

"I see families here that have babies. You can tell they've been living in their car. They'll carry their babies, and babies were hard. I remember how hard that was in a functioning home," Galloway said.

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at 523-5262, keila.szpaller@missoulian.com or on MissoulaRedTape.com.

 

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