Down but Never Out

Born and raised in Tennessee, I became homeless because my job downsized my hours and my pay. When I couldn’t afford rent, I was evicted from my apartment.
Even though I have a bachelor’s degree in social work, there was nothing for me in the job market. I spent so many hours, every day, searching. I’d apply, checking the box on every qualification they said they wanted. Then I’d hear that I didn’t have enough experience or they were looking for someone with a Master’s degree. Without opportunity, I knew I had to leave Memphis for my own survival.

I arrived on a bus in Minnesota last January. I literally closed my eyes and picked a place on a map – nowhere in the South – and my finger landed on Minnesota. I’ll admit it was scary. I didn’t know a soul here, but I took a risk. I’m the kind of person who’s not going to give up. I’m going to find a way to make it.

The day I arrived, a street outreach team referred me to another shelter in town. I stayed there from January to September. I have never experienced anything like it in my life. It was so chaotic. The conditions were deplorable. That was one of the things that gave me that extra get up and go. I knew I was not going to remain in that environment.

Every day, I went to Hennepin County Library with my old laptop and job searched. After many rejections, I was finally hired as a paraprofessional through a substitute teaching agency. But I was worried about maintaining my job because of the lack of sleep in the shelter. It was getting harder and harder every day for me just to get to work.

Then a county social worker sent me to Our Saviour’s Transitional Housing Program. It was a Godsend. I feel like I really can’t say enough. I’m in a supportive environment. The people here really help you. The best part is having a place of peace and rest. When I come home, I change my clothes, take my makeup off, and turn my music on. I just lie on my bed and meditate. Maybe I’ll read some poetry. Langston Hughes and James Baldwin are my favorites. It helps me to destress and stay focused. It’s been wonderful. I’m really happy.

With stability, I’ve been able to focus my attention on work. I really love the school I’m at now. I work one-on-one with a student who has fetal alcohol syndrome. We’ve developed a relationship. I’ve met her mom several times, and we love each other. The school is trying to get me hired directly as full-time staff with benefits!

I’ve discovered a passion for teaching students with learning disabilities and behavior problems. So next fall, I plan to start my Masters in Special Education so I can teach my own class. Beyond that, I just want to have a decent enough income that I can transition to my own place.

If there’s one thing I want people to understand about homelessness, it’s that not everyone who’s homeless is a drug addict or prostitute. That stigma really bothers me. People become homeless for different reasons. Life happens. Bad things happen to good people.

But even though we’ve been down, I try to tell people that they can still get up. Because places like Our Saviour’s are there to help.