Caring for her seriously ill son has prevented Tamyara Brown from holding down a job, and makes it a challenge to provide for her family.
But Brown, a domestic violence and breast cancer survivor who was once homeless, is resilient and resourceful.
The Buffalo resident is plugging away at a home-based career, parlaying her writing hobby into a job. She’s used her traumatic life experiences to inspire others by writing a novel and contributing to two anthologies – one about homelessness and the other about domestic violence.
“I just decided that writing was my destiny,” she said.
But her novel and the anthologies were self-published and self-marketed, and sales have been slow.
So the single mother of five still struggles on a daily basis. And with Christmas only days away, there’s no Christmas tree or other festive decorations to be found in her lower West Side home.
Her teenage daughters – Alisha, 16, Alexis, 15, and Alice, 13 – all want clothes and jewelry, and Alice, a budding chef, would like cookware. Her sons – Ruben, 10, and Isaiah, 8 – want Xbox 360 and action figures.
But Brown, 37, can’t focus on buying gifts for her children. She can barely afford to meet their basic needs.
“My goal is to pay the bills, and that’s a struggle,” she said. Adequate housing is also a pressing concern. But the Community Action Organization has been assisting the family in finding a new home. They’re currently cramped in a two-bedroom apartment but will soon be moving into a house on the East Side.
Brown is a New York City native who moved to Rochester with her children and their father for a new job. But her partner became abusive, first verbally and then physically. In 2007, she and the kids escaped to the Buffalo area and stayed in a safe house in Niagara Falls. She later found work at Adam’s Mark Hotel and then a place for her family to live.
Things were going well until her house caught fire, and she lost everything. Brown and her five children had to stay in a homeless shelter.
At that time, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and her son Ruben was diagnosed with nephritic syndrome, a kidney disease.
Brown’s cancer went into remission, and she was able to get back on her feet and even return to work. But Ruben would constantly get sick at school and need to be taken home while Brown was trying to work.
“I would get a call three times out of the week, and that became my life,” she said. “So it became: Do I continue to work or stay home and take care of my son?”
She decided to stay home with Ruben, and she had to go on welfare.
“But I wasn’t just going to stay home and do nothing. My goal is to be self-sufficient and get off welfare,” she said. “I want to set an example for my children to not give up.”
She started writing a blog and then poetry about her life experiences.
“Sometimes we go through things so we can see our purpose,” she said.
She then started writing longer pieces and articles, which became the start of her novel, “Blue’s Treasure,” and contributions for the anthologies, “Homeless Cry” and “Voices Behind the Tears.” She continues to market her books through social media while taking care of her son.
“I’m optimistic that it’ll all work out,” she said. “Even if we don’t have material things on Christmas, we’ll be happy to just be together as a family.”