Karen felt herself to be a failure several months ago when she and her young daughter became homeless — she felt helpless and hopeless.

“I was a mess,” said Karen, who asked that she not be identified because of an abusive ex-husband and because of the stigma associated with homelessness. “I’ve been a single mother for more than 25 years.

“I have my crying spells. I still take it pretty hard. It was shocking to me. I didn’t even have a car to live in. Some people get by doing that. I’m ashamed of myself. I know it’s not all of my fault, but it is my responsibility. I have to be strong for my daughter.”

Karen got behind on her rent after she lost one of her two jobs. The landlord agreed to partial payments, but ultimately forced her to leave even though she was able to get some help for rent from local agencies. She had no family that could help. She stayed with a friend for four days, but that could only be temporary.

The next step was to move into the Concorde Inn. She didn’t have first or last month’s rent, deposits for utilities or the money for a car to search for work in her profession in the legal field. The hotel was $319 a week. A vicious cycle had started and Karen could not find a way out. She was in anguish.

“It took every bit of my paycheck to pay for the hotel room,” she said. “And that ran out too.”

A worker at the hotel realized Karen’s despair and with Karen’s permission called the Rust Transitional Center to see if there was an opening there. Karen and her daughter were welcomed into the center, a place some refer to as a homeless shelter, but others know as a helping hand to stability.

Karen is a paralegal. She has checked with local attorneys and there are no openings in Pekin. Buses run to Peoria, but the last run is at 5 p.m. and paralegals have to stay later than that.

“A car is the ticket — I could get to Peoria where I could find work,” she said. “This will help me put money away so I can get back on my feet. I have no idea what I would do if the center had not been here. We would probably be on the streets.”