I get asked all the time how I "got out" of homelessness. I can feel the curiosity and anticipation from the person asking's voice; knowing that they are expecting some amazing story about "good relationships" and "accepting help from strangers" or something along those lines.
Something hopeful, maybe even sort of beautiful. They ache for the beautiful story of exiting homelessness.
But in reality, there was nothing "beautiful" about how I got out.
I was a runaway at 14, homeless by 16 and when I turned 18 I was able to work as an office temp and make better income than flipping burgers at a fast food joint (I did my time doing a gas station's graveyard shifts and cooking fries at McDonalds and flipping burgers at Wendys too).
Oh I worked. But I was never old enough to get my own place and never had enough money all at once to put down for first, last and security.
So I began dating guys with apartments. Guys I would meet in clubs. Guys that thought putting their hands on a woman was how you keep them in line. But I stayed and I took it because I wanted a place to stay and I eventually believed that this was all I truly deserved.
Until finally, at age 21 and pregnant with my third child, I had been beaten up so badly that the nurse at the hospital said she had to call the police. I begged her not to, but she cried and so I gave in. The police helped me fill out paperwork to press charges and obtain a restraining order.
He was arrested and then when released was not allowed to come near me - by law.
And for the first time in my life I felt housed and free! If someone were to knock on my door and ask me how I felt about life I would have said "FANTASTIC!" But the reality was that I was on welfare, pregnant and alone recovering from domestic violence and stalking.
This photo is me at Christmas time that year - 1994. My 21 year old new momma self holding the first child I ever took home. I felt like I was on top of the world.
And that is what trauma and abuse do to a person. When things get a little better, they believe it is the best. They have no idea the fullness of their dignity and so they always expect less than what God created them to be. Unless someone shows them and treats them differently.
Over the years, I slowly learned the fullness of my own dignity and because of that SOFESA has been helping domestic violence survivors and families learn just how special and full of dignity they are too!
Houses alone do not solve homelessness. A local community that brings the unhoused and the housed together in relationship to help one another does.
Founder & Executive Director, SOFESA
#sofesa #loveoutloud #starthere #homelessness #domesticviolence #humandignity #humasaresacred #relationshipsarevital #youaretheanswer
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Jess Echeverry is a women and family ADVOCATE, speaker and author. She has 20+ years of Executive Director experience with a demonstrated history of working in the non-profit organization management industry. She has first hand experience with homelessness and other social justice topics that give her the perspective and understanding needed to successfully help others.