Now, Kimberly, 47, Petrina, 15, and Destiny Westman, 11, are living in an apartment at Palmer Court in Salt Lake City in what is called permanent supportive housing. They can stay as long as they like and have a caseworker. Most important, Kimberly gets visits twice a week from a nurse.
“It’s a lot different feeling when you can go home each day,” she said Wednesday. “Now that we are here with more stability, we are doing much better.”
In August 2016, Kimberly had to stop working because her health was failing. She suffers from a severe case of Crohn’s disease — an inflammatory bowl disorder — and has had a colostomy.
Kimberly’s magnesium and potassium often crash to levels that can be life threatening. Twice a week, a nurse draws her blood to send for testing. The lab calls back to advise Kimberly on how much intravenous magnesium and potassium she needs. She takes both medications by drip twice a week with help from Petrina.
As money dwindled in the fall of 2016, Kimberly could not make rent on the $850 per month rent on the duplex, which also carried a $95 monthly utility bill.
Homeless again as 2017 dawned, the three were able to stay in motels for five weeks through a program offered by Volunteers of America, but then returned to the homeless shelter in February. It was frightening because, among other things, Kimberly’s immune system is compromised and she was coming into contact with dozens of people each day.
Kimberly’s health is still a significant issue. Next month, she will undergo surgery for a parastomal hernia — one that occurs when the bowels bulge underneath a colostomy. She’s looking forward to the operation.
Despite the rough road they have traveled since arriving in Utah in August 2015, Kimberly remains optimistic. She hopes in the new year to somehow get a car. She already has entered several contests to win one, but no luck so far.
Kimberly also is excited at being accepted by Women of Worth Utah Inc., or WoW. According to the organization’s website, it empowers women to change their lives by providing opportunities to create a new beginning as they move forward from devastating life experiences.
Although Kimberly doesn’t like to talk about their previous lives, she will concede that they left El Paso, Texas, when it became impossible to stay. She has no contact with her family or ex-husband.
While she remains hopeful, Petrina and Destiny seem less so. After leaving Taylorsville, Kimberly enrolled them in a home-schooling program, Utah Virtual Academy. Petrina is in 10thgrade and Destiny is in fifth.
“They’ve had to make a lot of adjustments. But they also learned that when things happen, it’s not their fault,” Kimberly explained. “It hasn’t been fun, but it’s been a growing experience.”