By Erin Avila
Shirley never saw homelessness coming. When she and her husband divorced 5 years ago, she was 45 years old and had been a homemaker her entire married life — she had no professional skills to speak of. Because of her limited earning ability, her sons went to live with her ex-husband.
She found a job as a retail sales clerk, but the limited hours and low pay weren’t enough to afford rent or pay for other necessities. Shirley accepted help from friends and family, living with them for a few years, but eventually, she felt she had outstayed her welcome.
Shirley lived in her van for 9 months before coming to Shepherd’s Gate. She tried to stay positive and avoided alcohol and drug use, but she says it’s tough when you can only shower twice a week, when you can only eat “ready-to-eat” food and when you don’t feel safe at night to rest.
She was also horribly embarrassed. People knew she was homeless — she couldn’t hide it. She felt like she had let her sons down, her family and friends down . . . “I started to feel like I was not worthy. Like I didn’t deserve anything better.”
Exhausted and sad, Shirley arrived at Shepherd’s Gate in September. She is now in our Working Women program, where case managers will help her with education, job training, and financial tools to help her get back on her feet. Shirley is incredibly relieved to have the help she needs. Everything is different: “My pastor says I’ve totally changed since I came to Shepherd’s Gate.”
Most of all, Shirley looks forward to the future — a future that will include her precious sons. “I can’t wait to have a place of my own, where my sons can come visit me!” she says. She’s so thankful for caring people like you who are making her new life possible!
Feel free to share your prayers for Shirley and words of encouragement in the comment section below. Thank you for your kindness to Shirley and other women like her!
*Name changed for privacy.