Dawn Fail was in her 40s, with two children and a granddaughter, when everything she’d ever known was “ripped out from under” her. It was the scariest moment of her life.

“I never thought for a minute that I wouldn’t at least have a home,” Fail said. “You grow up and you’re told family means everything, but you find out growing up it takes one death — just one, and it can tear a family apart.”

Fail was raised by her grandmother, with whom she’d lived as a caregiver for years until her death in 2016. Fail said she left a job to keep her grandmother out of a senior home, and any money her grandmother received had been the family’s sole income.

Fail said she owned her grandmother’s trailer, but it was in a trailer park, and while a small bit of savings paid the lot rent for a while, they eventually were evicted. When she realized how expensive and difficult it would be to have the trailer moved, she lined up someone to buy it.

Before that could happen, though, it was forcefully removed with the family’s belongings still inside.

“When they pulled the trailer, it buckled. There was no saving it at that point.” Fail said. “I always knew if I had nothing else, I had the trailer. It may not sound like a lot, but it was home.”

Fail said the realization her family had nowhere to go was “the most devastating thought in the world.”

“You’re scared for yourself and for them,” she added. “You want to break, but you can’t.”

For a few months, Fail said her family stayed with a friend, sleeping together in a dining room while she tried to figure out their next move. But Fail had been out of work for years and had limited means and experience. Getting back into the workforce wasn’t easy.

“You didn’t go door to door and do paper applications. It wasn’t personal anymore. You had to get on the computer to do that,” she said. “We didn’t have internet because it was a choice between paying for power or cable and internet. Well, there’s not much of an option there.”

Eventually, Fail said, she and her daughter started work cleaning houses, and with some income tax money and a bit of savings they managed to get back into a place of their own. Fail said for a while, she and her daughter were “leaning on each other to make everything work.”

However, when her daughter got involved with drugs, Fail she couldn’t manage to keep everything afloat on her own. Slowly, the bit of progress they made became unraveled too, and it wasn’t long before Fail and her family were evicted again.

With no other options, they moved in with her daughter’s boyfriend, who Fail still blames for pulling her daughter back into the drug scene. They were in a house with no power or running water, and because it all fell apart in early fall, Fail’s 10-year-old son was not attending school.

“There was nothing but drugs there,” she said. “As a mother, it was one of the most devastating things seeing your daughter go through that and not being able to help her, but I couldn’t help myself at that point.”

However, at some point while they were living there, Fail was referred to The Salvation Army’s Family Haven through the Mobile District Attorney’s Office. When Fail spoke to Lagniappe in October, she and her son had been at the shelter around a month and half.

Since then, her son has returned to school, and Fail has been working toward finding the means to support herself and her family. She’s also started the process of trying to get her 6-year-old granddaughter out of the same environment she and her son left behind. Fighting back tears, Fail said one of the counselors had recently said she was proud of her.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever been told that. I’m 45 years old,” she said. “Since we’ve been here, for the first time, it’s like I can actually breathe. This place has been a godsend.”

The Fail family are one of many families who will be helped by donations to The Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama’s “Our Family” campaign, a fundraising partnership between Lagniappe and The Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama. Please send donations to The Salvation Army — Our Families, 1009 Dauphin St., Mobile, AL 36604.