Janice* thought the worst was over when her daughter Cassie invited her to move in. They could help each other: Janice would attend school and care for her newborn grandson, and Cassie would work without worrying about day care.
Janice had just been through a painful separation after years of trying to help her husband overcome his addiction to drugs. She knew this was the fresh start she needed, and time with her grandson was icing on the cake. Life was good for a while, but then Janice’s daughter was laid off from her job. It wasn’t long before they lost their home and all heir hopeful plans were forgotten.
While Cassie moved in with an aunt, Janice stayed with other family and friends, but nearly everyone she knew was struggling to stay afloat in a bad economy. No one had the resources to help for very long. Janice ran out of couches to sleep on and ended up on the streets. With a catch in her voice, she remembers her struggle: “It was like I was falling and I was grabbing on to ropes that just weren’t holding me up.”
Janice tried to find work but without a diploma and a stable address, no one would hire her except to work odd jobs. Sometimes strangers would even criticize her for being homeless, calling her cruel names. If the days were long and discouraging, the nights were worse. When she had a little money, Janice would purchase a bus ticket and “miss” the last bus of the day on purpose so she could keep in the bus station until morning. When there was no money, Janice found a park bench near the government buildings and tried to sleep sitting up.
She was homeless for more than 2 years but what she remembers most of all is how alone she felt. “Homelessness takes a part of you, takes away that feeling of being a part of something. Family-that’s what it’s called.”
Janice often got on her knees and prayed to God for a breakthrough. God answered her prayers one night when she was staying in our Emergency Shelter. Janice knew there was limited space in our long-term program, but a staff member helped put her name on the list. Two weeks later, Janice had a spot in the program and began to rebuild every aspect of her life. In our Adult Education Center, Janice is learning in-demand computer skills all while earning her GED. She’s gaining confidence and hopes to find a good job soon.
Just as important, Janice found the love and support she needed to truly change her life for the better: “Sometimes strangers can become family – like at the Mission- they may not be your immediate family, but they’re so caring. They care enough to come together to see people do better.”
As she puts her life back together, Janice is so thankful to God and to the people who reached out to her when she needed a family!
*Name changed to protect privacy.