Back in 1999, Amy took her three kids and a trash bag of essentials and headed to a Waffle House in North County. Her husband had been abusive to her, but he never laid a hand on the kids.
But last night was different.
He threatened to kill all four of them.
Amy had no idea what would be next for her—she just hoped it would be better. A case worker from a domestic violence shelter met them at the restaurant and took them to safety.
Flash forward to present day 2018. Amy is the director of operations for Humanitri, the same United Way agency that helped her nearly 20 years ago.
Amy works alongside the case manager with clients facing homelessness or living in unstable environments. The agency provides counseling services, financial management, coping skills, landlord mediation and everything else clients might need to get back on their feet.
While Amy’s life hadn’t gone the way she’d imagined, she was thankful Humanitri was there to help pick her up and give her a safety net while she rebuilt her life. She became interested in the program and resources available for people in her situation. After speaking with the executive director about a new program, she was hired as a case manager. Now, she’s the director of operations.
After leaving her husband, she and her children lived in transitional housing while she saved money and regained stability. In two years, she paid off all the debt from her marriage, including her husband’s eviction and repossessed car, and put a down payment on a home.
Looking back, she admits that in the two years it took her to rebuild her life, she never fully rebuilt herself emotionally.
“There was never time to stop and feel and think,” she recalls. “You’re in that constant survival mode and taking care of the kids… What do they need? How am I going to do this? So you don't get time to stop and think. I never had time to process.”
“It's hard when you have your kids,” she adds. “You have something to fight for, so you keep fighting and you can come out on the other side.”
Now that her kids are grown, she said she sometimes feels lost.
“I didn’t know what or who I was anymore because I was always their parent, and everything was for them,” she says.
After 20 years of being “mama bear,” she looks to her work to find meaning and encourage other moms to fight as hard as she did.
The most important message she wants to get across to her clients? They can do this.
“There's hope, there's a future,” she says. “This current situation isn't your future. It's just where you are right now, it's just a right now temporary situation that you can work there and get through it and there's a brighter side to life into this.”
She knows this because she’s lived it.
Amy glows when she talks about her kids - her son is a Marine, one daughter is in college and her youngest daughter works with her at Humanitri. She raised them to be empathetic, confident and strong. Her proudest moment, she says, is when her son gave his jacket to a homeless man on the street after his Marines graduation because the man looked cold.
“He’s a good person because of me,” she says through tears. “That was the proudest I’ve ever been.”
Humanitri is a Lutheran ministry working with homeless, incarcerated and re-entering citizens through permanent housing, pastoral care, therapeutic counseling and home-based case management. The agency uses a Recovery Oriented System of Care to address the behaviors that resulted in homelessness, addiction, abuse and incarceration.
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