NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "We bounced around from family members. There was a time when we were on our own," Leigh Ann Strickland said.
Leigh Ann Strickland, 27, is the mother of two girls, ages 7 and 9. Out of an abusive relationship, she found herself, along with her children, homeless.
"You worry so much. I had them in my arms under the overpasses. It's so scary," Strickland said.
She said she witnessed so much on the street, and unfortunately, her children have, as well.
"A man stabbed someone because he was in his spot. It's not a good idea. I kept saying, 'How did I allow this to happen? I'm their mother. I'm supposed to take care of them and give them everything.' You feel worthless," she said.
One day, she said while walking with her kids, she reached 2020 South Liberty and something drew her in.
"We saw the gate and I saw the sign that said 'Hope.' I said, OK. I rang the doorbell and they - and they answered the door," Strickland said.
At the New Orleans Women and Children Shelter, a whole new world opened up to Strickland and her girls. She says they were saved.
"This is a breath of fresh air and a safe haven," Strickland said.
"The first thing they're getting is shelter, and they're getting a place where they can be safe and secure without limitation on how long they can stay, without being charged, so they're getting a home," said Don Silverman.
Don and Jackie Silverman started the shelter in 2007, and it's grown from there.
"In the last three years, since we've moved to this facility, we've helped 550 women and children," Silverman said.
Families are getting three meals a day, a room of their own and help to transition with job skills on site. For Jackie Silverman, she said it's very much about the children.
"To want to help these incredible kids just to have a little bit of normalcy, and that's all we're trying to do here," she said.
Don Silverman said nearly half of the children in the city living in poverty and on the edge of homelessness.
Strickland's children are now in school and doing well. For mom, she doesn't have a job yet, but she's working on it, and she's expecting to transition to her own place very soon.
"Places like this are real. They do exist. They're amongst the community, and there are people that are good in their heart willing to help,' Strickland said.
For the Silvermans, it's about raising awareness. And they say so much more is needed to eliminate the serious issue of having homeless families on the street.