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Finding Hope and A Home: Julie’s Story

Julie has been with The Salvation Army of Florence for seven months, working towards financially and emotionally recovering from a divorce that lead to depression and alcohol abuse. Her mental health battle has led to moving across the country, losing her support system, and losing her home. Although she has had a troublesome past few years, she is optimistic about starting anew with the help of The Salvation Army.

Julie grew up in Canton City, Michigan, a small farming community. She lived with her younger sister and parents, who were both teachers. Julie received a degree in paralegal studies from Ferris State University, married her high school sweetheart, and had two children. She was married for 30 years before filing for a divorce that left her financially unstable and in a deep depression.

“The last five years of it were not good. I stayed for the kids much longer than I should have. After that, I decided to divorce. I didn’t take anything in the divorce because I wasn’t thinking about myself long term,” Julie said.

She continued working in Michigan after the divorce and received alimony for five years, but the depression eventually worsened, and Julie didn’t seek treatment for her condition.

“I started drinking a lot and couldn’t get my life under control emotionally. I was working and going through the motions, but I wasn’t happy. I finally ended up quitting an excellent job that I loved and decided to move to Alabama to get away from the harsh winters in Michigan.”

Moving Across The County

After hearing from a friend who’d recently moved to the area, Julie relocated to Florence, Alabama. Her friend said she enjoyed the town, and Julie decided to take a chance and move across the country for a fresh start. But, unfortunately, the move didn’t help, and her emotional health continued to decline.

“I started drinking again. I didn’t care. I couldn’t find a decent job with decent wages. I didn’t research Florence before moving across the country. I just relied on what my friends told me, which goes against all common sense,” Julie stated.

Her parents passed away after she moved to Florence, so Julie was left with her sister and children, with whom she had estranged relationships, mainly due to her divorce. She didn’t have a support system outside of former friends and coworkers. The move to Florence created distance in those relationships, leaving her with no one to lean on.

“I went back into the heavy depression. I didn’t get treatment, and I didn’t care at all. I didn’t want to live. I wanted to die on the deepest level. I did not want to wake up another day.”

After weeks of going unseen, someone called the Department of Human Resources to stop by Julie’s home for a wellness check. Her electricity was off, and she hadn’t eaten in days when someone arrived. The caseworker assisted Julie with her physical necessities, but Julie was still suffering a great deal mentally. Her depression eventually led to falling behind on payments, resulting in losing her car and home.

“I used the little money left in my bank account to live in a cheap motel. I had two bottles of prescription sleep pills that I hadn’t used. I stayed as long as possible until my money ran out. Then I decided to overdose. The pills made me sick. I panicked and called 911 for help.”

Getting Back On Your Feet

Julie stayed in the psych ward of the hospital for two weeks. Finally, a social worker referred her to The Salvation Army after hearing about her depression and homelessness. Julie felt utterly out of her element when she arrived at the shelter.

“I was scared when I first arrived here. I did not know what to expect. I’ve never been homeless, jobless, or without a vehicle.”

“Being given the time and assistance to get back on my feet has knocked depression right out of me.”

She found full-time employment within three weeks of staying at the Army and is saving up to purchase a car. After securing a job, a social worker was then able to assist Julie in finding permanent housing.

“That first paycheck meant a lot. I could call a bus or call a cab to take me to work. Being given the time and assistance to get back on my feet has knocked depression right out of me. When I get back to a better normal, I will be going back to therapy consistently. Right now, I feel like I’m in a good place and was put here for a reason. One thing at a time. We’re taking baby steps. When things last longer, they end up meaning more,” Julie stated.

Julie moves into her apartment this week. She plans to work toward returning to the paralegal field and eventually moving to Maine.

“I’ve always wanted to visit Maine. I’ve done a lot of traveling, and I’d like to get some more in.”

Stepping Out On Faith

Meet Steven Washington, a resident of The Salvation Army Center of Hope shelter in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Originally from Marrero, Louisiana, Steven moved to Lake Charles at a time in his life when he had the clothes on his back and not much else.

The way Steven remembers it, that was a time when addiction and some poor choices in his life had caught up with him. “Well, throughout my life I’ve lived a disobedient life to God. There’s always consequences to sin. I became homeless, alcoholic, and I came to Lake Charles to get a new start,” Steven says. “One day I just said I was sick and tired of it, I’m just going to step out on faith. I hopped out on a bus, came to Lake Charles. I had no idea where I was going to stay or what I was going to eat. I only had enough to get down here,” says Steven. His first days were rough, sleeping under an overpass and struggling with hard realities of that life. He finally found a way out when someone told him about The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope shelter.

“I had no idea where I was going to stay or what I was going to eat.”

Steven Washington

Thanks to a generous community, The Salvation Army in Lake Charles has a place for Steven to go, as well as some tools that he can use to make a new life for himself. “Year-round here in a Lake Charles we have a Center of Hope. It’s a 30-bed men’s shelter that includes a soup kitchen as well as our social service department,” says Lt. LeAnna Marion, Corps Officer of The Salvation Army of Lake Charles. While the Center of Hope can offer emergency support to those in need, they also have programs that can offer men and women like Steven a chance to set a new course in life. “Those residents who are interested can work with our housing manager to complete budget work sheets and connect them to resources in the community. They can get their IDs, TWIC cards for work, connect them to resources to help them get rides, to go to school, and to help them eventually move out,” Lt. Marion says.

One of the largest industries in Louisiana is the oil and gas industry, and the TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential) card is an essential tool for those who seek work offshore. Steven, an offshore worker by trade, says that he intends to make use of his new opportunity to build some better plans for the future. With the help of The Salvation Army, Steven has been able to obtain his IDs, his TWIC card, and more to help him on his way to a better life. “It’s a struggle. I’m not going to be perfect. I still struggle with past thoughts. Through my addiction to alcohol, every time an opportunity came up I just couldn’t get it right. But now my plans for the future are to get back offshore, save some money, and try to give back to The Salvation Army, to maybe help some people,” says Steven.