I was a married stay at home mother. Before that, a preschool teacher. We lived a financially comfortable life. But there was a catch – my husband was a recovering alcoholic. This wonderful life we had built was completely dependent on his sobriety. Then, he relapsed – turning our lives into utter chaos. Not wanting to give up everything we had worked so hard for, I stayed by his side. I stayed too long. When it peaked, we had to run away from home. My nuclear family, my soccer mom lifestyle was gone.
We hid for 6 months in a crime ridden area of Kansas City. Having lived in Lawrence my entire life, it was terrifying. One night our house was robbed, and the car stolen while we were asleep upstairs. I packed up everything we had left the following day and came home to Lawrence.
When we arrived, the arrangements I made for us had already fallen through. We wouldn’t be able to stay. We were home, but homeless. I had no family, and no friends I felt safe telling we were back. I had no options. I was alone. Scared. Tired. Hopeless. I never thought much of hope. I thought it was unneccessary, something people did because they were too lazy to take action.
Since graduating from Family Promise, I know that I could not have been more wrong about hope. What could have been a nightmare, a traumatizing experience for my children – instead is a warm memory for all of us. Family Promise gave us a safe environment with all the support and resources we needed to climb our way out of rock bottom.This program will not work for you if you aren’t interested in being self sufficient. They give you tools, not a free ride. They have faith in each and every guest.
We were able to hold onto what was left of our dignity. We made connections with so many people, with guests and volunteers alike learning to see each other as human beings were meant to be seen, without labels or status. We were given food that was cooked with so much love, you could taste it. Our children were treated like family, gaining surrogate grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. The counsel and support that I received was more than enough to keep me going in our darkest hour.
Family Promise graduates have a bond. We celebrated holidays together. We helped out with each other’s children. We vented to each other. We shared our past lives. But, we were all under an extraordinary amount of stress. We got annoyed with each other. We missed our privacy. We were homesick for what we once had. We thought we nailed the interview but never got the call. We couldn’t pass the credit check for the apartment. The transmission went out. We couldn’t find childcare for our work hours.
Being homeless is major stressor layered onto other traumas. We are trying not to go back to unhealthy habits or abusive situations. We are dependent on people we don’t know that only know one thing about us, that we’re homeless. We are trying to keep things as normal as possible for our children while living in a different place every week, our belongings stuffed into backpacks and trash bags.
Homelessness is more than not having a house. We feel the stresses of insecurity, sleep deprivation, illness. We are vulnerable. Society is questioning our motivation, capabilities, and reliability.We are grownups that need other grownups to take care of us – a humiliating thought for anyone with pride. It’s a humbling experience. We are the most despised, feared, and misunderstood group of people in our country. We are thought of as individuals who have made poor choices in their lives.
One of the hardest lessons learned in life is that things are not always fair and being a virtuous person is no guarantee that only good things will happen to you.The homeless are not objects or plagues. We are people with valid histories and life experiences.
At the end of this month it will have been a year since I came to Family Promise. I have a secure job teaching again, we have a beautiful house that I can afford, and I am confident that we will never need to be in such a desperate position again. Because of Family Promise, I have been saved, redeemed, and healed. And that’s what true compassion is, investing whatever is necessary to heal the hurt of others.