Melissa remembers seeing her room at Loisann’s Hope House for the first time. The amenities were what many would take for granted but she had arrived there “overwhelmed and beaten.” She saw more than a room, beds, new sheets. She saw a fresh start.
She admits that, at the beginning, she wasn’t the easiest client. “Everything I said, ‘It’s not going to work because I need this, it’s not going to work because I don’t have that,’” said Melissa, 30 and a mother of two. “They said, ‘Just give it a try.’ And they made everything happen.”
They also made expectations clear. This wasn’t a handout. It was an investment. She recalled meeting Ms. Lisa, the Chief Executive Officer, who was welcoming and stern at the same time.
“She said, ‘This is not free money. You have to put in work for it and do it because you want to do it. If you want a life for your kids and to make a life for yourself and a career, she said, this is the program for you,’” Melissa recalled.
Melissa moved into LHH in January 2020 and moved out on July 7 into a new apartment and a new life. It feels like both a lifetime ago and yesterday that she was consumed by seeking her next high, she said.
It began with prescription painkillers and graduated to heroin. After a few months, the heroin wasn’t working. The girl she bought from provided a needle and injected her. Melissa remembers her foretelling words: “Congratulations, you’re officially a junkie. You’ll always want it.” “It was the end for a long time,” Melissa said.
She got clean four years ago after learning she was pregnant with her second child, a boy.
Still, ruined credit and a felony conviction kept her out of housing and full-time work. Her family didn’t trust her. She connected with a temp agency and found work in housekeeping in the healthcare industry. Whatever money she made went to rooms at low-rent extended-stay hotels.
Then she found Hope House, where the staff provided her with a road-map and the support to reach her goals. She met with her counselor every week. They pored over her finances and budget. Looked up housing options. Job opportunities. Provided moral support when she was down and celebrated victories, however small.
LHH provided every essential — food, clothing, even tampons — so she could aggressively save. She began taking online classes at Germanna Community College. And when it came time for her new apartment, Hope House paid the landlord her security deposit and first month’s rent. She promised to pay back the money if she moved and was surprised by the reply. She was told that it was seed money, a stepping stone for her new life.
“They are the reason I am where I am today,” Melissa said. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.”
She was surprised with the community’s generosity. When she moved in, Hope House told her that parishioners of Lifepoint Church wanted to furnish her apartment. When she came home from work, there was living room furniture, a toddler bed for her son, a twin bed for her daughter,
cabinets stocked with kitchenware — everything. Even a crock pot.
With recovery comes gratitude, which she wanted to express for the kindness. “Thank you for everything. I am appreciative. My kids are appreciative. If it wasn’t for them, my kids wouldn’t have a bed to sleep in, pots and pans and plates to eat off of.”
With recovery comes perspective. “I used to have very different image of homelessness. Until I became it.”