StoryCorps: When The Closest Thing To Home Was A Hospital Bed They moved to Seattle in search of a better life for their two kids. Instead, they found hospital time, medical bills and 14 months of homelessness. But they made it home eventually — together.

When The Closest Thing To Home Was A Hospital Bed

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's Friday, when we hear from StoryCorps. And on this New Year's Day, we have a story of a family looking for a new start. Charlotte Wheelock and Nick Hodges were struggling to raise their two young children in 2014 when they moved to Seattle hoping to find better jobs. Then Nick was hospitalized with a spinal condition that left him temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. Soon, they were homeless.

CHARLOTTE WHEELOCK: I remember sleeping in the car while you're in the emergency room, the kids passed out in the back seat. We slept in the car outside, we slept in a parking garage.

NICK HODGES: I felt totally guilty because I had a roof over my head, I was getting three meals a day, and I knew that you guys were out there struggling.

WHEELOCK: I don't think we talked about it a lot at that point because...

HODGES: No, definitely not.

WHEELOCK: ...Because I didn't want to burden you with it.

HODGES: But when you guys would visit me in the hospital, it's just, like, a sense of relief because I know that you guys are going to be safe for a few hours with me and we get to be a family.

WHEELOCK: You would take over, and the kids would climb up into bed with you and start watching cartoons and I would just go in the restroom and cry.

HODGES: It's a very thin line to walk when you're trying to be normal for your kids but inside your head, you're scared to death.

WHEELOCK: You had gotten out of the hospital and someone had mentioned that they were opening a new apartment for families, and of the 10 open apartments that they had, we got one.

HODGES: It was just, like, so many doubts and worries just gone within a few seconds of hearing, come get your keys. I remember moving our stuff in on the first day...

WHEELOCK: And we locked the door.

HODGES: The door shut and we were able to lock it, and it was just like, these are our walls. And I kicked my shoes off and sat down and I was just like, home.

WHEELOCK: I mean, at that point, we were homeless for 14 months, and I almost forgot what it's like to have our own place. I'm just so ready to start making plans, and I'm so glad that we get to do it together.

HODGES: I want to thank you for being strong and working so hard for all of us so we can be whole again.

INSKEEP: Nick Hodges and his wife, Charlotte Wheelock, in Seattle. They got the keys to their apartment on New Year's Eve one year ago, and Charlotte now works for one of the homeless shelters where her family once stayed. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress, and you can hear more on the StoryCorps podcast on iTunes and at npr.org.

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