A lot of people have their ideas about why people become homeless. Or why people can't get it "together". If you become involved in The Stewpot's ministry, or the work of another organization serving the homeless, you quickly realize how hard people are working. I had the chance to sit down with a lady (we'll call her Mary) who had received assistance from The Stewpot and other agencies around Dallas. As I listened to her story I was blown away by her persistence and determination. And reminded of just how fortunate I am.
Mary is 47. She was adopted as a baby and says she was on the streets at 9 years old. For almost 4 decades Mary has been battling to survive. She never really felt like she had a family - which is the case for a lot of people who come through our doors.
In October 2010 Mary was released from prison and put on a bus headed for Dallas. Not knowing where to go she planned on heading to the Salvation Army. When she got off at the Greyhound station downtown someone told her about The Bridge. Mary headed that way and began staying there. One week after coming to Dallas, she walked into The Stewpot. It was here that she was able to begin the process of getting her state ID. With the ID she could start looking for a job and housing. Two weeks into her stay at The Bridge, Mary was able to move out of the pavilion and into a room upstairs. Things were moving quickly!
Another step in her success was working with a caseworker at the Dallas Urban League. They have been helping her because of her felony. As she began setting more goals for herself, Mary joined a program called Back On My Feet. Through that program she started running and receiving some of the benefits that participants get.
Mary was doing an incredible job of getting plugged in and utilizing the resources available to her. Understanding it wasn't a one-step process, Mary took advantage of several programs offered and has achieved incredible goals. Though these organizations are not a real family, she feels “like they are my family. I can call my caseworker when I need help. The Urban League has kept up with me.” Her support system looks a little different than yours or mine.
While at The Stewpot Mary joined our STEP (Stewpot Transitional Employment Program). She graduated from the program in March. For Mary the STEP program inspired her. It was “a good foundation and helped me stay focused and motivated.” She developed a good relationship with her caseworker, Trina, who she still comes to see.
Not only did Mary graduate this spring from STEP, but she also got her own apartment! For the first time she has her very own space. With the help of local churches and food pantries Mary is able to get groceries and help pay bills until she is able to find a job.
In such a short period of time she has been able to accomplish so much. But she knows the journey isn't over yet. Because of her background it will be difficult to get a job. This is the reality for a lot of people we serve. But it's not impossible!
So today we celebrate Mary, her hardwork, and the opportunity for a second chance. We all need one from time to time.