Seeing Herself as a Homeless Woman–Opportunity House

When Amy* came to Opportunity House, she was looking for far more than shelter. She was looking to change her life. The biggest challenges she faced were her perceptions of homeless people. That’s what happened to addicts and lazy people—it wasn’t what she ever thought would happen to her.  She shares her experience and insights as a single, homeless woman.

Since her early days as a Navy Corpsman, Amy focused on her career and education. She saw herself as an independent woman who didn’t aspire to the traditional role model of wife, mother, and homemaker.

Then she became pregnant, and her life changed. With no other options, she moved back with her parents. Then her husband was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, just one month before she was to give birth. Eventually, they moved to their own apartment.

Amy got a job at the post office; her husband went into remission, and she had two more children. While pregnant with her third child, she returned to school studying Social Studies and Political Affairs with a minor in Anthropology. Her marriage ended, but she continued with school. In 2010, she graduated with a degree in Government from Millersville University. During her school years, she enrolled in psychology classes hoping it would give her additional tools and resources for parenting.

Struggling to Provide for Her Family
woman looking at a computer

Amy believes education is vital to recovering from being a homeless woman.  Photo by energepic.com: 

The years that followed were filled with turmoil. Working, and raising three children, including one with special needs, was overwhelming. Every day was a struggle. Food was scarce. The local food bank provided food for the family. Christmas was a painful holiday with no tree, no decorations, and no gifts.

She made the difficult decision to move back in with her ex-husband to save money and provide stability for her children. They were able to get subsidized housing. Eventually, her children chose to move back with their father who was relaxed with discipline and rules. “I love my kids. I knew they were tired of living the way we lived,” noted Amy. “They had to make their own choices. It’s how you learn and grow.”

Wanting to be a part of her children’s lives and help them, Amy co-signed car loans for her children. She struggled to make the payments when her adult children didn’t have jobs. It put her into financial ruin, and she was homeless.

Being a Homeless Woman for the First Time.

With nowhere to go, she went to the local homeless shelter in Lancaster. With hard work and determination, she was able to get an apartment. She was working temp jobs, and her income was not reliable. Keeping up with the rent was difficult, and the landlord asked her to leave. She came to Opportunity House to get a fresh start.

Today, she is enrolled in classes to become certified in medical coding and billing and hopes to get a job in that field. She’s determined to return to stable housing and knows it will be challenging. Being true to herself, she plans to live as a single woman and prove that she can make it on her own.

Sharing Her Insights and Perspective as a Homeless Woman

Amy shares her perspective and insight on advice on how to recover from being a homeless woman.

  1. You need a job with a good income. As a single woman, you are responsible for all the income and expenses and have to prepare and plan for the unexpected. Single moms have even bigger challenges. Know your worth.
  2. There’s more to homelessness than the stereotypical ideas of addiction and mental illness. Losing a job, getting sick, and having no backup plan when things go wrong will lead to homelessness. It’s an option no one considers until it happens to you.
  3. Let go of stereotypes. I thought that if I worked hard, everything would fall into place. I thought marriage and having children was what was expected of me. Now, I know that it’s ok to be single. Long-term relationships aren’t for me. It’s your choice to have children or not—and don’t let traditions and family pressure influence your choices.

*Named changed to protect confidentiality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUCCESS STORY

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