Surrounded by peer pressure, Mechelle turned to drugs at a young age.
As time passed, her usage increased and she became addicted. The 25 years that followed weren’t easy for Mechelle. She was homeless, lost her son to addiction and served time in prison.
When Mechelle was faced with a sentence of 10 years in prison, she realized something had to change and was the only one who could make it happen.
“I had to surrender.”
Mechelle was faced with a choice: rehab or prison. She chose rehab. This wouldn’t be the first effort Mechelle made to get clean, but it would be the time that worked.
Her rehab counselor recommended the YWCA, a move that would change Mechelle’s life forever. In an effort to give Mechelle structure and help to turn her life around, she was enrolled in the YWCA’s Phyllis Wheatley Transitional Housing Program, supported by United Way.
But it wasn’t easy. Initially, Mechelle was skeptical. It was a new way of life, and she found it difficult to appreciate the program guidelines and advice the program’s staff offered.
“I was scared,” Mechelle said. “To me, the way of life I was living before was comfortable. I didn’t have to deal with reality. It was what I was used to and what those around me did. It became easy for me. That’s why my addiction lasted for as long as it did.”
Still, Mechelle kept an open mind.
While there, Mechelle met Nicole Hughes, YWCA transitional housing program manager. Nicole learned Mechelle was upset about the move and participation in the program, but knew she could benefit from it if she would just try.
Eventually, Mechelle got to know the other women in the program and their stories. She made friends in recovery while attending meetings about careers, budgeting, “things you need to know to be able to survive on the outside.”
Through the Transitional Housing Program, Mechelle received safe housing, life coaching, case management, career counseling and referrals but most of all, life.
“They gave me another chance,” Mechelle said. “If it weren’t for finding this place [YWCA], I would’ve never made it and would still be out on the streets.”
In talking daily with staff, she witnessed her self-esteem grow and appearance improve, and began to look forward to getting a job and a place of her own. After only a year, Mechelle had learned how to be a productive member of society thanks to the resources, tools, guidance, love and support YWCA provided.
Looking back at her time at YWCA, Mechelle says she’s grateful how staff never acted as though her situation was unique, as if they’d never met anyone like her. More importantly, they never made her feel unworthy. Instead, she felt their compassion.
“It surprises me what people see in you that you don’t normally see,” Mechelle said. “The YWCA staff saw a lot in me and supported me. They believed in me, were willing to help and gave me a sense of hope and courage to do this.”
Without this level of support, this story may have ended differently.
Because of United Way, the YWCA is able to deliver affordable high-quality social services to thousands of individuals, like Mechelle, in our community.
Today, Mechelle is thriving as a proud homeowner and working grandmother of five beautiful grandchildren. Because of YWCA, Mechelle says she’s a better woman.
“They’ve given me confidence, stability and a better outlook on life.”
As for the future, Mechelle plans to become a substance abuse counselor to help others as well as herself in sharing her story.
“If sharing my experience helps just one person, then I did what I came to do,” Mechelle said. “Someone did for me, so it’s only right that I give back.”
YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for thousands of individuals in the community. YWCA has been a United Way supported agency since 1923.