My name is Jo. I’m from Cambridge, MN – about 50 miles up Highway 65 from the Cities. It’s a rural area. There are no shelters, and work is hard to find. There are churches that might help but only if you’re a family with small children. If you’re a homeless adult, it’s like nobody cares.
When my marriage turned abusive, I left my husband and got a divorce. Of course, it was terrifying trying to raise three kids on my own. But I was still working and managed somehow. I didn’t become homeless until years later when I went through a financial crisis.
For two years, I lived in my van during the summer and couch hopped in the winter. I didn’t stay longer than a few weeks at a time with my kids, who were grown by then, because I didn’t want them to have to support me. When my van got towed, I lost my job because I couldn’t get to work.
Then my younger brother was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer. It had spread to his spine. That’s when the depression started. Well, you’re depressed when you’re homeless anyway. But when he died, I lost it completely. I never got dressed. I quit eating. I lost fifteen pounds.
At this point, my sister called me. She wanted me to see if I could find some help in the Cities. Two weeks after I arrived, I found Our Saviour’s Shelter, and my life took a complete 180. These wonderful people did not judge me. They helped me learn that there is a way out and got me back on my feet. I was smiling a real smile for the first time since I could remember. I started to hope again.
When the paperwork for the housing program came, I couldn’t believe it was happening. I honestly believe that OSH saved my life. They got me the help I needed to improve my mental and physical health. With my arthritis and my eyes going, I don’t think I could have survived another winter out there. It’s horrifying. You never know where you’re going to sleep the next night or if you’re going to be safe. When you panic and you’re that stressed, you can’t think, which makes everything worse.
Now, after four years, I have a home. I have someplace to come back to after a long day. The first thing I do, I get in my pajamas and sit down and enjoy the quiet. I don’t even turn the TV on right away. It’s just nice to be quiet. I read a lot. I can crochet. I have a safe place to stay, to sleep every night. I have an extra mattress in case my kids come down with my grandbabies. They can spend the night.
The support of generous people like you made all of this possible. I know that programs like these can’t survive without donations. And I want you to know, not just anyone cares to help people like me. So many people saw that I was homeless, and they’d back off almost like it’s contagious. It’s not contagious. I’m still a human being. I didn’t believe it at the time, but I do now.
I do have just one thing to ask. It’s very important that these programs keep going. Because there are people out there who still need help. I want Our Saviour’s to be there for them – for whoever else ends up like I did.
If you are able, would you consider making a gift to change someone’s life forever this holiday season?