Hi – my name is Dani. This is my volunteering story at The Journey Home. I hope it brings encouragement to those needing help and inspiration to those looking to serve. We are called to be Salt (healing) and Light (guidance) in His name. (Matthew 5:13-16)
I grew up in a middle-class family, obtained a bachelor’s in Nutrition and MBA, married, had two children and a good career. I was living a good life. Fast forward several years and through some unfortunate circumstances and bad decisions, I found myself unemployed, no car, not much money, and homeless. I thought, “I’m an educated woman, I’ve managed large budgets and staffs. Had fine homes and great vacations. How can this happen to ME?” At 56 years old my whole life fell apart.
This wasn’t just about choices and circumstances but an answer to prayer. I wasn’t living in God’s will and was miserable but didn’t have the courage to turn away. I prayed for God’s help. God knew how independent and stubborn I was, so He didn’t mess around. God pulled the rug right out from under me. Stunned and scared, I didn’t know what to do. Yet, I thanked Him. (Psalm 59:16-17) My parents were delighted for me to come back to Murfreesboro to live with them. After months of job searching, I still couldn’t get a job. Continued prayer led me back to school to become a nurse.
While in nursing school, I met a homeless man from the streets of Nashville – I will call him DW. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I met him. He carried the stigma of being homeless. His clothes were dirty, and he wasn’t well groomed. DW had experienced a heavy life that trapped him into homelessness. DW wasn’t just down on his luck, it was his life. He had been homeless since his mid-teens and he was now in his 40’s. I was able to spend time with him and realized he is kind, funny, honest, humble, and enjoys good conversation. Through some generous, caring people, DW is no longer homeless.
In the last few years, I’ve met more really good people who experienced some hard times. It stirred a longing in my heart to find a way to help. An internet search lead me to The Journey Home. Working full-time M-F I wasn’t sure what I could do but after contacting the Director, a plan was set in motion. The need is great, and the workers are few. Ask and you shall receive, knock and the door will be opened. (Matthew 7)
As we forge out this new opportunity, I look forward to doing more, to be a blessing and to be blessed by those I meet on this journey with the Journey Home.
Homelessness impacts the whole community and is at the center of many other social needs and issues. Homelessness impacts our local healthcare, public safety, education, and many other systems.
Imagine, for a moment, being homeless, being a mother and trying to go to work each day to keep your job. When you get up in the morning, there is not a restroom where you can get ready for work and breakfast is fast food that you will pick up on the way to taking your kids to school. Your kids will get lunch at school and you will try to find a place to live over your lunch break. You find an apartment to rent but, on the application, they ask for your current address…
Not many of us can even imagine so many tasks related to getting to work. And if you are a single mother, you also need to take and pick up your child from school. Below is Caroline’s story, a single mom, making her way back from homelessness.
“The Journey home is the only support system I have, the resources here have helped me get to where I am. I’m so grateful for everyone that has helped me along the way.”
When Caroline fled from domestic violence with her young son, she didn’t know where to go. She paid for a hotel for a few nights then found temporary shelter with a friend, but neither situation was a long-term solution. She was riding her bike all the way across town to get to work, trying to save enough money for a car to replace the one she’d lost.
Months earlier, when she was pregnant with her son, Caroline had come to The Journey Home to ask how to get a food box. Caroline reached out again when she found herself alone and desperate.
“I had no idea of what The Journey Home did for people, or what resources were available to me. You went above and beyond to help me with so many things—bus tickets, childcare, and even housing. I am so thankful for the housing program! I desperately wanted to provide a safe place for my son to lay his head down at night—that’s the only thing that matters—but I couldn’t manage it on my own.”
More than just a place to live, the Supportive Housing Program helps people like Caroline move beyond their current circumstances to improve their life and future. The Journey Home staff worked with Caroline to create a housing plan unique to her. This included assessing her needs, connecting with appropriate support services, and setting goals.
Caroline has purchased a car, moved into a safe place to live and is continuing to accomplish her goals.
Many survivors of domestic violence become homeless when they choose to leave an abusive relationship. Finding safe, affordable housing can be challenging on a limited income and not everyplace provides a place for adults with children complicating a situation that is already overwhelming to most. The Journey Home helps people and families find housing and provides some extra help to get established.
This Father’s Day, The Journey Home is celebrating a father’s story.
Mike, a husband, father to three children and a drywall hanger, had always had a job and took pride in taking care of his family. Mike’s income allowed them to get by but did not provide any extra to save for a rainy day. Mike and his family were living paycheck to paycheck.
One day, their apartment complex caught on fire and they had to move. Mike’s income coupled with bad credit from overdue medical bills led to them becoming homeless as Christmas approached. As a family of five, they were living in their old car. Mike was still going to work every day to change his family’s dire situation. Mike’s boss offered to let his sons stay at his house and his daughter stayed with her aunt.
Mike and his wife came to The Journey Home to get help. The Journey Home helped them find a place to live and assisted with the required deposits. Now they have a place to live with their kids, they are getting help to clean up their credit and Mike’s boss is letting him drive a company car.
Homelessness can have long-lasting devastating physical, emotional and psychological effects on children and their parents. Families become homeless because of a lost job, reduced work hours, or an unanticipated expense. Helping the family to stabilize by assisting with housing allows for their healing – financially, emotionally, and psychologically.
The Journey Home is celebrating Jenny’s milestone of moving into stable housing.
At 19 years old, “Jenny” found herself homeless. She did not have a driver’s license and had worn out her welcome at her friends after a lot of couch surfing. Jenny’s lack of confidence and low self-esteem added to her challenges. Jenny’s cousins helped her find the support she needed. They helped her study for the driver’s license exam and brought her to The Journey Home. Now Jenny has her own place to live, her driver’s license, scored extremely high on the ACT and has a full scholarship to MTSU. Now Jenny knows she has a home and can focus her attention on studying and getting her degree. 🎓
Often, youth homelessness is linked to family conflict. Many of the youth have experienced significant trauma before and after becoming homeless. There are many factors that lead to homeless youth – human trafficking, exploitation, pregnant and parenting youth, youth with special needs or disabilities and youth of color. The Journey Home celebrates Jenny’s accomplishments. The Journey Home serves youth 18 years of age and older.
Please note: The Journey Home protects the identity of clients – while the story is factual, the names and photos represent a likeness of those featured in the story.
The Journey Home is celebrating “David’s” move into stable housing enabling him to access resources he needs to begin living an independent life.
David grew up in foster care from the time he was 5 years old. He lived with several foster families during this time and experienced abuse by one of the families that was providing for his care. When David turned 18, he reunited with his family after many years of separation. David struggled to hold down a job which led to him becoming homeless. That is when his family brought him to The Journey Home and asked for help.
The Journey Home helped David find an apartment and is working to help him attain ID credentials including a social security card. David was referred to the career center to evaluate his skills and qualifications to help him become employed. He has also been referred to a mental health counselor. This support and development of his skills will help David rely on himself and allow him to celebrate his own “Independence Day”.
Physical or Mental Health problems can cause homelessness or can make a person’s vulnerability to homelessness escalate. When a person is young and experiences trauma, it can impact every aspect of the person’s life moving forward. Counseling and support can change and positively impact a person’s situation to help them begin to live an independent life.