As I look at all the experiences that have led me to be homeless, I have no regrets about the decisions I have made.
I am 43 years old. I am educated and a mother of four, a candidate for graduation from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. My studies are in the field of criminology and criminal justice, with a minor in social work. When I tell people I am homeless, they ask me how I became homeless.
This is not my first time being homeless. Well over 15 years ago, at the beginning of this journey, I was homeless. I had just ended a 10-year cocaine addiction and a situation that included domestic violence and rape. A decade of horrible decisions left me physically, mentally, financially, and spiritually bankrupt. It was at that time that my footsteps were ordered in another direction. I entered a shelter in Memphis, Tennessee to begin my way back to sanity.
After several years of recovery, I decided to educate myself, because I knew knowledge was power. I wanted power to assist organizations in leading my fellow sisters, whom I left on the streets, on the path to Christ and sanity.
I finally came to St. Louis to be educated in social work and criminology at the University of Missouri. I started at Florissant Valley Community College, where I obtained my Associate in Applied Science degree in Human Services. It was there that I was required to do practicum hours, to gain experience in my field. I had no idea where I would begin to look for a site that I would be comfortable in.
One day a Catholic Nun by the name of Sister Judy Corrigan stopped by the Florissant Valley campus to lead a workshop for volunteer workers for a homeless shelter called Room at the Inn. This was a dream come true, because all through my journey my continued prayer has been “Lord if you allow me to make it out I will dedicate my life to helping people who chose the same ugly paths I took. Although it was rough, it was those paths of my journey that led me to you, Lord.”
I decided to volunteer at Room at the Inn. I learned a lot about providing services. It was at this place I learned the importance of patience; I also learned critical listening skills, acceptance, and diversity competence. This volunteer opportunity set ablaze an undying fire of service in my heart.
Early in the month of April, my grown sons moved out of my house. On the 18th of April I lost my job, and my lease was up on April 31, 2009, so I was in danger of losing my housing. So in less than thirty days I had no one else to worry about but me: my sons were gone, I lost my job, and I lost my housing. At first I have to admit that I was sick about these changes, but then it was kind of funny when you look at the path I have been placed on. I did not know what to do but pray. I heard so clearly in my prayer “go to Room at the Inn.” I called the Homeless Hotline and asked if any space was available, and I was accepted, after my referral from the Housing Resource Center.
This time being a resident made the difference. In this walk I prayed that I would obtain the information and experience that would lead me to complete my purpose in life, which is to assist my fellow homeless sisters and their children. It is not by chance all these changes in my life have transpired in less than 30 days. My God is preparing me for a new journey in which Room at the Inn is teaching me through experience to be efficient and effective in providing services to many different people.
It was many years in between being in a shelter, so I guess God wanted me to do some ground work which would allow me to see the new face of homelessness, people who are just like me. My period of homelessness served as research, that will allow me the opportunity to offer intentional types of services to assisting other homeless women to become self sufficient again.
I am close to completing my course work at UMSL, so I will have the credentials to enter the field of providing services to homeless women and children. I am excited because I have accepted the position of chief operational officer for a housing foundation in the city of St Louis. I have learned from the example of the staff at Room at the Inn. My experience as a client at Room at the Inn has helped me master attending skills and critical listening skills. I’ve also recognized the need for genuine love and compassion. For this I will be ever so grateful!
(Editor’s note: Amelia’s story has been shortened from its original length. While at Room at the Inn, Amelia was referred to housing sources and job opportunities. She received services from our network including physical and mental health care, domestic violence counseling and budgeting classes. Staff and volunteers were flexible so that Amelia could attend daily meetings to prepare for her new job. She also received gas vouchers that allowed her to drive to those meetings. Upon her departure, Amelia received rental assistance from our Homelessness Prevention Program fund.)