When Thanksgiving rolled around this year, Lisa, 32, did not have the pots and pans in which to cook a meal. Instead, the single mother of three took her kids to celebrate the holiday with relatives of the same man who had physically abused her.
Lisa asked to be identified by a pseudonym out of concern for her safety. She moved in 2009 from Georgia to Michigan, where she made a life for herself and her three kids, working as an assistant manager at a pizza franchise. But she said that an abusive relationship began to take its toll on her life: Lisa lost her job, took out a retraining order against the man, and relocated her family.
"I'm trying to get myself together for the boys," Lisa told HuffPost over the phone.
The task of starting over has not been easy, she said, as she has no family of her own in the state apart from her children. After she relocated, Lisa sought out the services of the South Oakland Shelter in Michigan, through which she and her boys, who are all under the age of 11, were placed in a rotating shelter and assigned to a case manager who has worked with them to rebuild their lives.
Founded in 1985 by seven religious congregations in Oakland County, SOS works with homeless and at-risk individuals and families through a range of emergency and long-term services. The rotating nature of the shelter means that different venues host clients from week to week, and these are often churches, synagogues and one local mosque that open their doors.
"We view ourselves as a faith-fueled and a faith-based agency," SOS Director of Program Development Jenny Poma told HuffPost. "For a lot of our clients, spirituality is a strength and it helps them get through, but it's not a requirement."
The shelter's website says it served 510 individuals in 2013, 83 percent of whom exited into permanent housing and 30 percent of whom exited with employment. In addition, 25 percent of those served reported having experienced domestic violence in their recent past, Poma said.
Lisa was among the 49 percent of shelter clients who were experiencing homelessness for the first time. But she and her children were able to move into their own apartment in recent weeks.
"Things are going great," Lisa said. "We moved into our apartment three weeks ago, and we're getting furniture tomorrow."
Poma said that many first-time shelter visitors like Lisa just need a "jumpstart" to get them back on track.
"The cool thing is that even if we only secure them with one security deposit, they get case management for a whole year," Poma said. "Lisa qualifies for a lot of programs, and it's a matter of getting her connected to those resources."
Now that Lisa has a home, her next task is finding employment -- which may be difficult, given that her youngest is not yet school-aged. The Department of Human Services can help subsidize her childcare costs, Poma said, and SOS has helped Lisa set up a donation page on HandUp, a charitable giving platform that allows people to donate to homeless and low-income individuals.
Lisa said she has raised just over $300 but still has a long way to go before she can buy a car and "become stable again." Part of that effort, beyond just raising funds, entails building a support network.
"I don't have any friends," Lisa said. "It's just me trying to do everything on my own."
Poma reiterated that need for community, and explained that helping clients secure housing and employment is the first step, after which comes the long-term task of helping them develop networks.
"Because [Lisa is] housed, the next step is getting her acclimated to her community," Poma stressed. "Community capital is huge."
When asked what has brought her joy under such difficult circumstances, Lisa responded, "My kids, to see the look on their faces when we moved in [to our apartment.] Seeing them run around freely and happy."
Her oldest son understands that the family's hardships are temporary, Lisa said, and he has been "a trouper" for helping out with the younger kids. With new furniture and an apartment of their own, Lisa said she hopes to spend Christmas at home with her boys.
"We haven't enjoyed Christmas in a while," she said.
Learn more about how you can help Lisa and other SOS clients through their HandUp profiles here.
This story is part of series called 12 Days Of Giving. Huffington Post Impact, Religion and Parents have teamed up to feature stories from 12 families in need over 12 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Read more here.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.