I started working at Housing Matters after my divorce. I worked in the Hygiene Bay, helping people access showers. It was a joy to connect with the people there. I later learned they needed someone to work with the women’s group across the street and immediately said yes. My dream has always been to help out young women who are lost and doubt-ridden. Probably because that used to be me.
I worked with the women’s group seven nights a week. I’d sit with them and just listen. I knew that they were going through a lot, but I had gone through a lot of pain in life too. I knew I could support them because I knew what they were going through.
During this time, I was staying on friends’ couches, but I eventually found myself homeless. Around the same time, my health took a downward spiral. I bought an RV, which had no heat or running water. It was a really hard place to live.
Nevertheless, I continued to help as many people as I could; I’d hand out clothes and sandwiches to people around town. I have always done what I can to take care of those suffering around me. Nothing has stopped me from this, not even being homeless.
Eventually, my kidneys started to fail. I started falling a lot and one day, I fell down the stairs and busted right through the door of my RV.
From there on out, I was in and out of the hospital constantly. I had no support whatsoever and couldn’t take care of myself because I didn’t have a safe home to recover in. It was a vicious cycle. I couldn’t take my medicine consistently while living on the streets, my belongings were constantly stolen. I was going to the emergency room almost every other night because my blood pressure was so high that they thought I was going to die.
It was nearly impossible to keep up with my health without a home.
One day, I was at a friend’s house showering and cleaning up. I felt something go “pop, pop” in the side of my head. I said, “Call the paramedics, I’m having a stroke.” I felt something like a balloon burst in my head on the right side. I knew it was a stroke right away.
I woke up in a hospital bed surrounded by everyone I knew. I couldn’t believe it. The women from the women’s group, even the people I would pick on who didn’t like me. They were all there!
I left the hospital and was welcomed into the Recuperative Care Center (RCC) the same day. If I didn’t have the RCC, I would’ve died. I could not have returned to the streets after this stroke. It would’ve killed me.
While staying at the RCC, I was connected with Desiree, a case manager. Having her changed everything for me. She and I worked together to find a suitable house and ensure I had the supports I needed to successfully stay housed. My community at Housing Matters believed in me no matter what. They trusted me and gave me the time I needed to recover and get my feet underneath me. Without that time, I don’t think I would be here today.
We found the perfect home for me and everything has fallen into place. I can finally start to work towards my dream of supporting more women who need help in our community. This house is going to allow me to reach for the stars.
Plus, I still have access to the support I need. I am a 64 years old stroke survivor, so I need assistance sometimes. I have so many people I can call when I need help and they always come. I have a whole support team that I can lean on.
I never had people stand behind me like this in my life. So, to have that happen for me, to have this team behind me, it has changed everything. My life truly started when I came to the RCC.
And now Housing Matters is building housing for 120 people to have the support like I have to achieve stable housing, and that is just great. That is 120 people who will never be alone again, and that’s what they need. If you’ve got a support team behind you, the sky’s the limit.
This new building is a symbol of hope for our community. Knowing 120 more people will get the help they so desperately need, that is really all we can ask for, isn’t it? This is a beautiful time for our town and more beauty is on the horizon, I’m willing to dream.
This story was collected in June of 2021 by Andrea Feltz, Community Conversations Program Manager