“Homelessness is not fun. You have sad days. You have days where you just, you don’t even worry about your emotional well-being or self-care.”
“It messes with your head,” says Genaysia, when she talks about being homeless. “Homelessness is not fun. You have sad days. You have days where you just, you don’t even worry about your emotional well-being or self-care.”
Genaysia knows what she’s talking about. At 29 years old, she will tell you she’s been homeless almost all her life. “I never had my parents. I was adopted at birth by my grandma. Grandma got Alzheimer’s [when I was] five. Then I bounced between family members and the system until I was fifteen, sixteen, and I decided to run away.”
In running away, Genaysia freed herself from her abuser, a man who was supposed to keep her safe but molested her instead. But she found new dangers out on her own in the world. She slept in cars and stayed up nights when she had nowhere else to go but the street. She sold her body to survive.
At 17, Genaysia gave birth to her first son. Her joy, however, was cut short when child services promptly removed him from her arms. She cried and pumped breast milk for two weeks before learning that she wouldn’t get her son back. Then, two years later, Genaysia gave birth to a second son. Her renewed hopes for motherhood, however, ended in tragedy when her baby’s father killed their infant son.
Beyond the Trauma
All of this trauma has understandably left its mark in small and large ways. To this day, Genaysia can’t stand the smell of peppermint patties because they trigger the memory of her abuser, and she candidly shares that she’s tried to end her own life 12 times.
But Genaysia won’t be put in a box. She’s full of surprises. Genaysia knows how to farm. She’s certified as both an event planner and PCA. She’s won facilitator awards, written grants, spoken on panels at the state capitol, and worked on political campaigns. In school, she’d miss days while she was homeless but return and finish a week’s worth of advanced placement homework in two or three days. She’s more than the sum of what she’s endured.
Someday, Genaysia would like to write a memoir about all of her experiences. Mostly, she wants to do this for her son, who is now twelve years old. Although he doesn’t live with her, she’s never had her parental rights terminated and has remained in his life. A recent health scare got her thinking, “I figured I’d write my book in case something happens and my son’s like, ‘I remember my mom, but it’s starting to fade.’ At least he’ll get some sense of who his mother was…She had layers to herself. She had different levels.”
The Peace of Home
Now in OSH’s Permanent Supportive Housing Program, Genaysia is enjoying a peace that has eluded her for much of her life. She explains, “That’s been my thing for the longest time. I’m all about the peace. I prefer that over the chaos any day. Whatever you want to do in your house, it’s your place. You can walk around naked or put on all the clothes you want. I don’t really leave my home. [This is where] I’m at peace.”
“That’s been my thing for the longest time. I’m all about the peace. I prefer that over the chaos any day…I don’t really leave my home. [This is where] I’m at peace.”
Aside from home, OSH provides Genaysia with support to achieve her goals. She’s learning how to budget and working to repair her credit. She’s also navigating the courts in hopes of bringing her son to finally come live with her. Having someone to help her manage it all makes a big difference. Genaysia has a habit of starting too many things at once and overwhelming herself. OSH staff help her keep going over the long haul. “If I just take the time to focus and not overwhelm myself with multiple tasks because I want to be superwoman, I can accomplish something. When I drop the ball, that’s where I need people like Cassie [Genaysia’s case manager] to help me pick it up.”
Journey to Self-Discovery
Moving forward, Genaysia continues on her journey towards healing and self-discovery. She recognizes how far she’s come, saying, “I was very emotionally immature. If things weren’t going my way, my reaction was just to fight because I don’t like to cry…I was angry. I didn’t want to be here. I didn’t know why I was here. Those were all questions growing up.”
Of course, she still has bad days. Days when depression kicks in. “When I forget, I turn into the person I used to be when my abuser was abusing me. That scared person in a corner, in the shadows, that cries until her eyes get puffy. I have to remember I’m not that person anymore.”
While Genaysia’s remembering who she’s not, she’s also continuing to find out who she is. Although everything is a work in progress, you can hear power in her voice as she confidently proclaims, “I feel like I know who I am finally. I’m an honest, blunt person. I’m a mother, a friend, a shoulder you can cry on. I’m a farmer and crocheter. I’m book smart and street smart. I am resilient. I am a survivor. You can put me anywhere, and I will thrive.”
“I feel like I know who I am finally…I am resilient. I am a survivor. You can put me anywhere, and I will thrive.”