Building a New Life off the Reservation

May 2, 2016

Holly and Raymond Bixby found themselves in a desperate situation—unable to provide for their family with no place in their community to turn for help.

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Holly and her oldest daughters.

As the result of a back injury and subsequent surgery in 2014, Raymond was unable to return to his job and they lost their housing on Ashland Montana’s Northern Cheyenne Indian  Reservation.  He and Holly have four children of their own and also care for two young relatives.  Their youngest child, Alex, has Down syndrome and a heart defect which required open heart surgery when he was just four months old.  Two other children have cognitive disabilities.  On the reservation, they were living in poverty, far from prospective jobs and aid for their children.

After researching limited shelter options, Holly discovered Family Promise of Greater Helena, several hours away from the reservation.  With only two weeks to move, they met with Nick Zullo, the Affiliate’s Director, and all parties decided that leaving the life they knew on the reservation and entering the program in Helena was the best choice for the entire family.

“There’s a big difference between sleeping on Aunt Shirley’s couch and Family Promise,” says Zullo.  “Both options will offer you compassion and a place to stay but Family Promise has the resources to help you get back on your feet.”

Once their stay with Family Promise began, the Bixbys were paired with family advocate Susan Duncan.  Duncan’s intensive work with the family began to turn their lives around.  “Susan’s heart is in what she is doing and she had a huge impact on us,” Holly says.

Bixbys 3

Alex is thriving.

Duncan helped Holly find a physician who works with children with Down syndrome, and guided the family’s enrollment in Medicaid-funded programs for disabled children.  And Duncan also worked with local schools to ensure that the Bixby children had supplies and transportation to school.  While in the program, Raymond received job training for environmental work through a county program and Holly found a job as an administrative assistant for a local company.  Both he and Holly participated in the New Beginnings financial literacy curriculum, creating a budget and establishing bank accounts.

Family Promise worked closely with Holly and Raymond to help them find secure and affordable housing for their family.  Duncan connected the Bixbys with the Helena Housing Authority, which is how the family ended up with their current residence, a five-bedroom house with a large yard for the children to play in.

While they love their new house, the Bixbys have a dream of eventually owning their own home.  This goal could be “achieved sooner than they think,” says Zullo, thanks to Family Promise’s relationship with Habitat for Humanity.  Through Habitat, the Bixbys hope to be placed in a house that can truly be a home for their family—a symbol that they are finally back on their feet.

Today, Holly and Raymond are both working and their kids are happy and active in school as the Bixbys await a July response to their Habitat application.  Holly reflects upon her family’s stay with Family Promise as a turning point in their lives.  “We are, day by day, thankful for what we have,” she says.  “I don’t know what would have happened to us if we hadn’t found Family Promise.”

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