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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.”

Overcoming Drug Addiction, Finding Love, and Building a New Life

TJ Lackey, a former shelter resident who arrived with drug addiction problems, is now sober, married, has started a family, and is working over maintenance for The Salvation Army of the Shoals.

Lackey is from Cullman, Alabama. He lived with his grandparents and was raised in the church. Although his grandparents loved him dearly and did everything they could to prevent him from straying onto a dangerous path, Lackey fell into drug usage at an early age. He had been using methamphetamine for 15 years before coming to the Army. Lackey came to Florence for a weekend trip a few years ago to visit a friend, ended up moving in with that friend, who was also a meth addict, and fell into a slump. Lackey and the friend were eventually evicted from their home with nowhere to go, so they decided to turn to The Salvation Army. Lackey got clean and sober while staying at The Salvation Army and met his wife while recovering. She became pregnant, which motivated him, even more, to make sure not to return to his addiction.

“I decided to grow up. I got two jobs and stayed clean. I’ve been clean ever since I’ve joined the Army,” said Lackey.

Lackey has been sober for over three years.

“You give and you get back. God is treating me good and life’s good and I love it.”

Shortly after coming to the shelter, he started attending church at the Army and became more involved, including volunteering to ring the bell during kettle season. He now has a fulltime job in maintenance at The Salvation Army, allowing him to keep up with his financial obligations.

“Thank the Lord for The Salvation Army and everything He’s done to change my life. I’m happy to do my chores when I wake up. It has given me a chance to save money to get a place and other things that I need. I’m never late on the rent, and I pay my utility bills at least three weeks ahead. I like being ahead. God is good to me,” Lackey shared.

“Although I strayed, I’m back. I wasted so much of my life. I guess I just got so lost in my addiction that I didn’t think about my future and kept self-destructing. I’m doing well now. I’ve stayed out of trouble, I don’t associate with any enablers, and I’m enjoying getting closer to God. You give and you get back. God is treating me good and life’s good and I love it,” Lackey added.

“Thank God and The Salvation Army.”

The Salvation Army of the Shoals has a church service on Wednesday evenings. Church members and shelter residents have dinner together afterward. That’s usually the time Lackey would see a Salvation Army officer in uniform.

When I first caught a glimpse of somebody in uniform, I realized I didn’t truly understand what The Salvation Army was about. I was like, ‘Who’s that? What? A Captain?’ The uniforms intrigued me. I didn’t see them much as a resident in the rehabilitation program, but they were at church to bring the message on Wednesday nights. I felt the presence of the Lord with their message and how loving this whole organization is. I’m just so thankful that I came here, and I’m still here. I’m still a part of the church family, too,” Lackey stated.

“I love the mission here at the Army. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’ve come so far. I pray every day that the Lord helps me to stay strong. I stay busy doing my work, studying the Bible, and volunteering. Thank God and The Salvation Army for being good to me. I’m thankful to be a part of a team that does good for others,” Lackey added.