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The Difference Gratitude Makes

Thanksgiving falls in November and my story is largely about the role gratitude played in helping me while I was homeless and to ultimately come out of it.

Tell us a little bit about your journey to homelessness.

Honestly, this question is difficult for me. It takes me back to a very lonely and dark place in my life. On April 25, 2019, I became homeless. My mother also died that night at around 2am. We had lived together. The last 9 to 10 years of her life dementia caused her to lose grip on reality and she became a danger to herself and me. I could not work. Our home went into foreclosure. I was trying to fight the foreclosure and her dementia at the same time. It didn't work. And I couldn't find help or resources. I developed severe PTSD due to her abuse and the judgment of others. One week she was coming after me with a knife in her hand and rage in her eyes...the next week she was dead. And then I was homeless.

Most people could look at your situation last year and think, "How in the world could anyone be thankful during that time?" What kept you going with such a positive attitude? What does thankfulness mean to you and has that meaning always been the same or has it evolved in your journey of the last 18 months?

Deep down I've always known that gratitude is important. But it definitely evolved over the 2 years I was homeless. In the beginning I went thru several women's shelters before being forced to sleep in my truck,--- which I did for 8 months. At first, I felt so lost and worthless. But I found ways to survive and my job helped keep me grounded. thing early on caught my attention. I felt totally and completely safe sleeping in my truck!! No fear! I couldn't explain it! I guess with life's distractions ripped away God was just there. I felt free and despite the circumstances happy. That's when I began to notice things to be grateful for. Small things at first like that free cup of ice. Each time I was grateful for something, things to be grateful for multiplied. I seemed to be on some sort of gratitude journey! Well, then it got cold and The Life House women's shelter opened. Then things to be grateful for got even better.

I love the line from Les Miserables, "To Love another person is to see the face of God". How were you treated during your time of homelessness?

There were times I was treated unkindly when someone noticed I was living out of my truck. They would express disgust and treat me as subhuman. It hurt deeply and I would cry. I think God just stepped in at that point to help. After each time I was treated unkindly..the next 3 or 4 people would be kind, helpful and encouraging. In just a short while I began to encounter ONLY kind and generous people. That was very healing.

I love your $40 and free ice story that you shared with us! These were special gifts you received during your time of homelessness. What did they represent to you?

The free ice and $40.00 represented hope! Hope I would get out of homelessness. It was also fun to see it happen over and over. I received $40 unexpectedly 5 separate times!

The Life House Women's Shelter was integral in helping you as you worked toward a home and security once again. Tell us a little bit about your connection to this shelter.

The Life House women's shelter opened on Dec.21, 2020. I was there the first night. There were so many volunteers getting the place ready and making and serving dinner for us! They treated us like royalty. This was most definitely the best shelter I'd ever SEEN! (And I'd lived in 3). That's when I met Courtney Denton, Kristen Easler, and renewed my friendship with Kelly Cauthen (a social worker who had helped me before and who called me when this shelter opened.) Our basic needs were met of course...but there was much more! Love, encouragement, compassion, celebrating your successes and cheering you on when things seemed bad. For me,...I couldn't deny how loved I felt. This place and people are special to me. I knew once I got out I wanted to stay involved and help.

I can't help but think in this time of Advent that we prepare for our Savior who was born in a stable and had no home! How do you see yourself in that story? How has Jesus revealed himself to you in this journey?

I learned I wasn't really homeless. Just house less. Home is wherever God is,..which is everywhere....a stable, a truck,...under the stars.

What was most meaningful to you about the volunteers that served?

One of my favorite things volunteers did was come talk to us and encourage us. There are so many ways to help The Life House. I encourage others to volunteer by filling out the interest form.

Anything else you'd like to add?

One of my goals in speaking out is to raise awareness about homelessness. I'd like to challenge and change the perceptions many people have about homelessness. And also, to help The Life House women's shelter. The Life House opened on Dec. 21, 2020, not even one year ago. There were 7 of us that first night. (My stay was 4 and a half months). Quickly they had a waiting list as more women learned the shelter was there. Within a few months they were able to purchase the house across the street for a 2nd shelter, ( which could be opening sometime this spring). Also a few weeks ago they opened a cottage warming center to house more women. All in less than one year! That is tremendous!

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