Tell me about your life growing up. I grew up in Kansas City. I knew of my dad, but he was never around. I had five step brothers and sisters and went to grade school at Horace Mann.
By the age of twelve my mom was hardly ever at home and because I was the eldest, I ended up being Mom. I cooked for the kids, cleaned house, washed their clothes and took them to the bus. Then I got myself to school. We never knew when our mom might turn up. I longed to be free of all that responsibility but I stuck at it!
In my freshman year of high school all the lights went out in my life. My uncle raped me in our bathroom and I became pregnant with twins. The worst part was my mom wouldn’t believe that her brother was the father. The babies died five months after they were born. My mom kept saying I'd lied about her brother and wouldn’t have anything to do with me after that.
When I was fifteen, my mom died and my siblings were given to one of my mom's brothers. My dad disappeared and I was on my own. I drifted to the streets and started drinking and doing drugs. When I was high I didn’t have to think about anything or anybody. By the age of seventeen I was running the streets.
What does it mean to be “running the streets?” Running the streets in our culture means you do what you’ve gotta do to get money for drugs; selling your body and giving it up for crack, and alcohol; living in abandoned houses, dope houses or anywhere you can find a bed. You numb, live rough and survive.
I had two more children, four years apart, when I was aged eighteen and twenty-two. They were both boys. I couldn’t care for them and gave them up to family members. I later had a third child who was taken by the state. Back then I really didn’t care about anyone or anything, I just drifted with the wind.
For a while, I hitched rides on big rigs and went with one truck driver after another. Some days there was the excitement of new places and people. Most days, it was a bad experience. I hit rock bottom in my thirties. I got help and worked hard to get clean. I had my own home and found jobs that didn’t need an eduction - warehouse and assembly work. I started to re-build relationships with my two boys and I got married to a guy who had a good job.
Later in my marriage I discovered my husband was lying and stealing from me to buy drugs and alcohol. He lost his job and refused to find work, and he was violent. I lost everything. I went down-hill with chronic depression and became homeless again. Then I got really sick and ended up in hospital. I never did get my life back together again after that.
Tell me about your path to Reconciliation Services? I came to RS a few years ago and they helped me get my ID card and gave me food from the food pantry. Then last year I came by and met Miss Sylvia and Mr. Turbo, they gave me some blankets. This year I signed up with Miss Sylvia for the SNaP program. We've had some beautiful times together! There’s been between sixteen and twenty of us who get together each week. I’ve been coming every week for the last nine months.
How has the SNaP program helped you? It's allowed me to be me; to vent and talk with my peers - ladies who have been through similar things to me. They don’t judge me. We all lift each other up and encourage each other through our struggles. They tell me I’m gonna make it. This makes me feel good; like I’m somebody. We have a lot of fun too! In being with my SNaP ladies, I've found strength and courage to push through a lot of stuff and believe in myself.
The RS staff are my cheer-leaders. Miss Sylvia is sweet and awesome but she’s down to earth too and doesn't sugar coat anything. She tells it like it is. I’ve been challenged but it’s good for me. The program is giving me tools for life and I’ve got hope that things are gonna get better. I'm on my way.
The people at RS have played a big part in helping me find my way. They're my friends and my community. No-one looks down on me here. I like to come to the cafe to sit down and think. I find peace here, it’s a place where I can relax and enjoy the atmosphere. I don’t have to be out in the elements. Sometimes I get on the computer and play a game. Sometimes I help Jay and Francine hand out the silver-ware for the Friday night meals. I can’t walk very well, I have Arthritic Psoriasis and my knees give out on me sometimes, but I like to help out when I can. I get to knit my hats in the cafe and give them to others. I like helping other people, it gets me out of myself. I believe that when we help others in life we are helping ourself. In helping others we do good to our soul!
Tell me about some of the high points in your life Deborah. My dad surfaced in August 2013. I got to live with him for five months and look after him some before he died. We had some rugged times but we talked and worked it out. I’m grateful I had that time with him. It was very healing! Another highlight was being reconciled to my two boys. They’re aged thirty five and forty now and I have good relationships with both of them. My youngest son recently married and has twin boys. They’re six months old and they’re beautiful. He wants to move the family from Texas back to Kansas City. They would like to have me move in with them to help with the twins. This would be wonderful!
Are you living on the streets right now? I'm in a homeless shelter, I'm alright though. I have a sleeping bag and blankets and I’ve got a smile on my face. I've been clean and sober for almost a year. I'm fifty eight years old now and I thank God for letting me live another day and for forgiving me. I thank God daily that my children have forgiven me and that I may get the opportunity to help raise my son’s twin boys and be grandma to them. I’m grateful for all the goodness and help that is in my life and that I get to share what I have with the people around me.