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Schools always there as a source of stability
By Kerry Lester | Daily Herald Staff

Inger Balderas' life and the lives of her five children, ages 9 to 16, have been in upheaval since 2005. She escaped an abusive husband, who has since done time. Jobs and homes have come and gone.


Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

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Published: 7/27/2009 12:02 AM | Updated: 7/27/2009 6:49 AM

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Inger Balderas describes it as a nightmare.

One that's been going on for far too long.

The mother of five has spent the past month at the Elgin-based Community Crisis Center with three of her five children.

In the evenings, Balderas, formerly of Carpentersville, heads off to work as a telemarketer, hoping her earnings will carry her family over into other lodging.

She's found an apartment in Elgin and aims to move out of the shelter this week.

"It's affordable, it's doable, and it's mine," she says, her voice brimming with hope.

Earlier, Balderas halted the interview to help her youngest board the school bus for summer school in Community Unit District 300.

"I've got to see her off," she said.

Minutes later, she returned to tell her story, which begins on Dec. 1, 2005.

That was the day she left an abusive husband, who has been twice convicted of battery in Kane County.

She found an office job with a construction company, making enough to pay for a small Elgin apartment, to put food on the table.

Her husband was always coming in and out of the picture. "He always came back and found me. I could never completely get away," she said. The family moved to escape, from one apartment to another.

This past year, Balderas worked as a telemarketer, but that job ended, too. With no steady income, Balderas and her children moved in with friends in Carpentersville. The friends were soon evicted, and Inger and her children found themselves without a home again.

"We're finally out of the domestic violence; he can't hurt us anymore," she said. "But now the economy has hit."

The family moved in with another set of friends, but Balderas could not afford the $500 a month she was being charged for rent.

As the family waited for enough beds to open in the shelter, Balderas had two of her children stay with friends. She and her eldest son spent the night in a borrowed car.

The guilt of what her children have gone through, she says, is overwhelming.

"I can't tell you how many times I've thought of placing my kids somewhere until I get on my feet," she said.

"But they say, 'Mom, we don't want to live with someone else.' You want so much more for them."

The family has had one source of stability in their lives over the past few years.

Balderas' children, who attend school in District 300, receive help from both District 300 and Elgin Area School District U-46's homeless services departments.

District 300 buses pick up her kids from the Crisis Center in Elgin in the morning. U-46 buses take them home at night.

Balderas says she's been helped with clothing, gas cards, tutoring and even rides when she's found herself looking for a job.

"These people have bent over backward," Balderas said. "I'm so grateful. It's imperative to keep that consistency in my kids' lives."