Adopted at age 13, Christi Brudnicki gave up her own two children to adoption when she could not take care of them.
Brudnicki, 22, vows things will be different for her third child, due Monday. She hopes to keep this child but knows her life has to change first.
For the woman, who now lives in Copperas Cove, homelessness has become a way of life. But now she is determined to find a way to support herself and her baby by finding a job and a place to live.
Living on the streets of Chicago off and on for three years, Brudnicki gave birth to her first child when she was a sophomore in high school. She dropped out of school to take care of her baby, but she gave up the child for adoption one winter.
“I took care of Anthony for 18 months. But when I lost my home, I knew it was too cold for a toddler to survive on the streets in Chicago temperatures,” Brudnicki said. “I couldn’t care for him anymore.”
She had begun dating a man 10 years older than her, and her life revolved around him. He was repeatedly in and out of jail. They moved to Copperas Cove in 2011 when she was 20, and Brudnicki gave birth to her second son, Gregory.
“We were both working in remodeling and restoration. We had an apartment, a car, and were paying our bills,” she said. “But we were involved with the wrong crowd. A lady pulled a knife on my baby’s father when he was holding him and Child Protective Services wanted to take my baby saying there was child endangerment.”
The couple fled to Las Vegas resulting in an extradition warrant for interfering with child custody.
Returning to Cove, Brudnicki’s child was put into foster care, her boyfriend was sent to jail, and she was put on probation for five years. “We lost our house, our car and our child,” she said. “My boyfriend was back in jail and I was homeless again.”
Brudnicki stayed at Cove House for two weeks and then Families in Crisis as her boyfriend was in and out of jail. She began receiving donations from the community and was able to stay in hotels through Thanksgiving before going to Our Lady of Angels maternity shelter in Temple.
By Thanksgiving, Brudnicki was seven months pregnant with her third child, whom she plans to name Gio.
She said this time things will be different. She plans to do everything in her power to keep her son.
“I don’t want to be homeless. I’m working toward my own place. I’ve been trying, but something always happens,” Brudnicki said. “I have made those bad choices and I have learned from those decisions.”
Brudnicki said she was involved heavily with drugs but stopped using when she discovered she was pregnant the first time. She said she has been clean for five years. One of the requirements of her probation is that she obtain her GED, and she is taking classes through Central Texas College to improve her math skills. The Texas Workforce Commission is paying for the classes.
Despite being nine months pregnant, Brudnicki continues to do odd jobs selling insurance, raking leaves, and doing work at churches and the YMCA.
YMCA Family Center Director Doreen Vasseur has supported Brudnicki both personally and financially over the last year.
“I’ve been very straight with her. Leaving her boyfriend who was emotionally abusive and controlling was the best thing she’s done,” Vasseur said. “She clearly understands she is responsible for another life and has to make the right decisions.”
Brudnicki said Holy Family Catholic Church allowed her to earn money for clerical and janitorial jobs at the church. She is devout with her faith and goes to church every Sunday, no matter where she is living or how bad things get, she said.
“I’ve gone through a lot. I am put through trials to build me stronger and put me on the right path,” Brudnicki said. “This year is going to be a better year. There is nothing holding me back or holding me down. Doing things the right way will hold a lot more for me. (My future) is like opening a new present.”