She made a paper airplane and flew it across the room.
Printed on the airplane was the word “Freedom”.
Over the past 5 years, The Fund for Homeless Women has supported programs that have helped unaccompanied women on the Monterey Peninsula leave the streets and begin self sufficient lives.
Women without shelter are individuals. Their reasons for homelessness are unique and personal. They can be employed, receive public benefits or retirement. They can be ill, disabled, use a walker or wheelchair, depressed, suicidal. They can be 18 or 82. There are many faces of homelessness and they are frequently invisible. Only a few of these women wear the mark of homelessness, bulky clothes, shopping carts, their belongings in bags, sitting on the sidewalk. The others fit in and do not want attention.
Women who have participated in the programs we fund are all around us–they are our friends and neighbors who found hope and regained dignity at one of the many services that we fund.
These are some of their stories.
Deborah, an older woman, has lived for years in Carmel. Never someone that you might imagine homeless, Deborah was a child of privilege, a debutante and during many years a successful business woman. But Deborah has a daughter with severe mental challenges.
The combination of helping her daughter with daily dilemmas, aging and a severe downturn in her business quickly led Deborah into homelessness.
Acutely embarrassed by her plight, Deborah hoped to only need the help of One Starfish for a few months. She still met with her friends in Carmel but would never mention her living circumstances. She had many friends and would occasionally borrow money from them to help ends meet. She applied for jobs, but then her daughter was in a car accident, totaling her car. Thankfully, her daughter was not seriously hurt. Still, Deborah had to handle those expenses. Bad times continued.
Finally, with the help of One Starfish, a small space in Pacific Grove was found. A real warm home after over a year in her car.
On the day Deborah left One Starfish, she made a paper airplane and flew it across the room. Printed on the airplane was the word “Freedom”.
Lorraine was 22 years of age when she entered the Community Homeless Solution’s Women in Transition program. She was homeless due to abuse she suffered in the home, complicated by chronic anxiety and depression. Stable and safe shelter, case management and program support enabled her to engage in psychiatric attention and pharmacological intervention. This enabled her to reconnect with supportive family, secure employment in a local retail store and rent a small apartment on the peninsula – where she continues to reside.
Carmen first joined the One Starfish Program in the spring after spending several months couch surfing and sleeping in her vehicle. She had moved to California from Idaho some six years ago to seek a better life near the ocean, a place she so fondly remembered from childhood visits to the coast.
For some time, she was happy in Monterey County, holding down waitress positions and frequenting the gorgeous landscapes she came here seeking.
But as far too many know far too well, life throws curve balls when we least expect them.
One day, Carmen’s vehicle was struck by a drunk driver, leaving her with persistent back pain and severe discomfort from staying on her feet for extended periods of time. Unable to continue in her line of work, she found herself faced with a lack of steady income paired with numerous rent hikes as vacation rentals began to take hold of the local market.
When she came to the One Starfish Program she found a way to avoid ticketing from illegal parking, a place where she could rest easy knowing that she was safe. With this newfound peace of mind, our counselor’s guidance led her in the direction of pursuing Social Security Disability Income, hoping to find additional stability to get her life back in her own hands.
Toward the end of her stay with the program, Carmen told her counselor that she had gotten back in contact with her family back in Idaho, something she was too self conscious to do before, out of fear of feeling like a burden. With the reigns of her life back in her hands, she felt more prepared to reach out to reconnect.
The last meeting with Carmen, she informed us that she had decided to move back to Idaho to stay with family. She held so much gratitude for One Starfish and the people working with her in her time of need, helping her find a safe haven and resources so she would not have to sleep with one eye open or skip meals. By the end of her journey, she looked like a new woman: happy, hopeful, and eager to see what the future holds.
She later contacted her case worker to let us know that her trip was a safe one and her family was elated to see her.
* These stories are true. Names and images have been contrived to protect the privacy of the women.