FROM HOMELESS TO HOUSING
From Tent City to a Two-Bedroom:
The story of the woman who beat addiction AND the odds
by Bethany McDonald, Executive Director of HUGCLT
I met this woman on my very first day of our HUGCLT service in tent city - all the way back in March of 2020.
She was one of the first encampment residents I connected with, and she was one of my favorite things about our daily visits each day. Her positivity, trust, and appreciation shone through each and every time I saw her.
Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, we would always bring her ice and supplies - and she never once asked for anything more. She never took more than she needed. And she brightened every day for us with her presence, resilience, and incredible personality.
Around September of 2020, when she was visiting a friend away from the camp, she came back to find her tent - along with everything she owned - burned to the ground. Also lost in the fire were her Christmas presents for her 3 year old grandson, who was literally her entire world. She was close in the queue for housing, but that relief could be dozens of months away.
Early in 2022, I got a text message that made my heart explode.... She was FINALLY approved for housing.
After so many years of empty promises, uncertainty, endless waiting, and using every ounce of strength she had to cling to hope, it was her time.
A few days before her official move-in date, we made a special trip and brought her to our HUG offices to pick out toys and clothes for her grandson, along with other items for her new apartment (that so many of us take for granted)... A simple cutting board, or new bedspread, or coffee cup held so much more power than just her gratitude - they were symbols of her struggle and the battle she had finally won.
As we pulled into the parking lot and she realized where we were, she suddenly got incredibly emotional and started to cry. It took us by surprise - seeing this tiny, unbreakable pillar of strength reduced to tears - and we had no idea how unforgettable this moment would become... for all of us.
Completely unbeknownst to us - this woman had literally lived on the ground behind our offices for almost 2 years. In the winter, in the rain, in the heat - her struggle continued as she slept on the concrete loading dock to shield her from the cold and wind.
This picture is the moment she showed us exactly where she lived, where she struggled, but most of all - where she survived.
So today, she returned to the same place she once called home... to pick out plates, glasses, pots, pans, and tons of other items that she will be taking into her actual PERMANENT home next month. She filled a suitcase with things for her new apartment in the same place she once huddled behind just to stay alive.
This - right here - is a story everyone needs to hear. No matter what it is you’re struggling with, your present doesn’t dictate your future. And of that strength and persistence in any facet can lead to a path you may never have thought possible. Watching this incredible human rise and fall and rise again - over and over - was a front row seat to a life-changing lesson that no matter who you are, or what the circumstances... it's never too late to fight for the life you deserve.
I love this woman, the work we do, and ALL of the organizations that consistently come together to make these stories possible....
Because sometimes, we all need moments like these to remind us of all the goodness this world still has to offer.