By the time Ivi* became homeless, she’d already endured more trauma and loss than most. She’d lost her mother, kids, dog, car, job, apartment, money—even her church community. She says, “It was my first time being in the street. I didn’t have anybody. I had nowhere to go. I started eating from the garbage. I was 260 pounds, but I became so skinny that not even a size zero would fit me.”
“I started eating from the garbage. I was 260 pounds, but I became so skinny that not even a size zero would fit me.”
The struggles of being on the street as a woman were particularly harsh. Aside from concerns about safety, Ivi recalls hiding in trees to go to the bathroom and not being able to afford feminine hygiene products each month. Instead, she used her clothes or underwear or tried to get to a restroom to use some toilet paper. These memories seem uniquely branded in Ivi’s memory.
In the Eye of the Storm
It’s no surprise then that when Ivi met a man who became her friend and then eventually proposed to her, she said yes. She says, “I had no place to go. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have any money. I decided to give him a chance so I married him.” By getting married, Ivi was able to get off the streets and even have her three kids come live with her again.
“I had no place to go. I didn’t know what to do…I decided to give him a chance so I married him.”
Unfortunately, her happiness was short-lived. “It was the worst thing that I did because he started treating me real bad.” The man Ivi married became her abuser. He routinely locked her out of the apartment whenever he was angry, which was often. She remembers one time when it was three in the morning, freezing and raining outside. Ivi stayed in an abandoned building with her son that night.
Still, for years, she tried to make the relationship work—until her abuser nearly killed her. “He almost stabbed me in the back. That’s the day I started running in the street, running like crazy, crying. I didn’t know where to go, what to do. I called my daughter. She was living here at the time.” That’s when Ivi decided to move from Boston to Minneapolis.
Clear Skies Ahead
At first Ivi lived with her daughter, but she couldn’t stay long without putting her daughter’s housing at risk. So it was back to the street, this time in a new city. Eventually, she met a friend who told her about Our Saviour’s Housing and entered permanent supportive housing. She says, “The program helped me a lot. I got my place. I don’t have to be worried. I don’t have to be afraid somebody’s going to rape me or do something in the street. I can sleep well. My energy’s coming back. I’m getting motivated, like I want to go to work. I’m grateful for that.”
“I don’t have to be worried. I don’t have to be afraid somebody’s going to rape me or do something in the street. I can sleep well…I’m grateful for that.”
One of Ivi’s greatest joys has been reconnecting with her now adult children, two of whom are living in the Cities. Her relationship with them has been intermittent over the years. Now, finally, they’re together again. This Mother’s Day, her kids spent the day with Ivi at her place. They told her they remember her taking care of them when they were small, working two jobs so they could have what they needed. Ivi didn’t expect this after all that’s happened, but it means everything. “My kids are my life. They’re my inspiration. At my lowest point, they were the one thing that made me keep going.”
One day, Ivi hopes to have her own place without the support of Our Saviour’s Housing. Then, she’d like to help other people who are struggling. There are so many who have lost hope, and she wants to be an inspiration for others to know there’s more to life than pain. Like she often says, “After the storm, the sun is gonna come out.” Here’s to many days of clear skies for Ivi.
“After the storm, the sun is gonna come out.”
*Name has been changed upon request to protect Ivi’s identity.