On Easter Sunday Christopher and I got up and got ready for church at Victory Outreach. We headed downtown to see some friends. On our way we saw Tanya pull up in the parking lot, I gave out a little shout and walked up to her. She didn't even recognize me we were all cleaned up and sober, had been for several days as we had just received temporary housing in the hope that we would actually get permanent housing soon. I gave her some resource papers and she told me that every year they raise money to take one person from the streets to Rome. She said that morning she prayed that from the three ladies she wanted to pick from let them walk in her path that day, I did. She asked me if I would like to be her guest and go with her. I said yes, how could I not...ROME!!! The other amazing thing, I will be there for my 38th birthday.
My name is Melanie; I grew up in an alcoholic family, my father was always drinking and my mother drank in the evenings. At night my mom would call for me and I would have to get up and put my papa to bed telling him to stay there because I had to go to school in the morning, he was very good about listening to me and never laid a hand on me. Sometimes I would have to clean up my mom in the middle of the night. I finally left home at 15. My older sister who is 16 years older than me, also a big drinker, let me stay with her, I was able to go to school. I ended up hanging out with gangs and getting into trouble. I was in a very abusive relationship. I had my beautiful daughter when I was 18. I left her dad when she was four months old, I was already pregnant with my son, I had him at 19.
When I was 20 I met a guy, we stayed together for 15 years. I had my third child at the age of 25. After a bad break up I went to rehab as I had started drinking heavily at age 26. After rehab my ex was going to help me pay rent so my daughter and I could get own place and I would get my boys back. He reneged on the agreement. My daughter went to my moms and I went to the streets.
At first it was hard, very hard, but to survive you learn fast to. Me and a friend from treatment were out there together, he had been on the streets before, off and on for eight years at that time. This was my first time and still trying to stay sober and not drink wasn't that easy. We found a good camp and that's what we called home, by the river next to the bridge. At first we carried everything we owned, after staying at camp for a while we started leaving most of our stuff. One day we came back and everything was gone. All my clothes, shoes, hygiene, food and blankets. We had to start all over again and that's when we started drinking again even more. It's very hard to stay sober out on the streets. I was beat up many times, one time I was totally unrecognizable because my face was so swollen and my eyes black. And yes I was raped on the streets.
We moved up river where some of our friends camped. it was on a small hill. So now we had our own hobo community, there were four groups of new friends and sometimes we would get travelers staying in our camp. The downfall at our new camp by the river, was all the weeds and being by the river, mice and rats. I cannot stand them, scared to death. We always had to remember to hang our food in the trees, if you forgot, the rats would tip through our backpacks, anything, if they smelled food. Our days and weeks were pretty much the same. We knew where all the "feeds" were we knew who served lunch and where, Mondays at the Church, Christ In The City every Wednesday at the park, Thursday, breakfast at Camille's. The rest the time we had to hustle and hope for white boxes (others leftovers)!
When our stuff was all taken from camp again we started sleeping in alleys, parking garages, abandon buildings, overhangs under bridges, anywhere out of sight. Last year I started having problems with my feet and could barely walk, I went to the hospital three different times and nobody knew what was wrong, they bandage them and slowly they started to heal. I walk a lot better now but still sometimes find it hard.
I love to see the homeless helping homeless. I know it does get a little crazy and not everyone is perfect, we do stick together, as a street family we will always look out for each other. Sometimes we're the most generous with each other.
I was filling out the paperwork for my passport, I had to go get my permanent ID from the St. Francis Center, that's when they told me that I would be able to stay in temporary housing, which is usually only available for a couple of weeks, until my permanent housing comes available in July. The blessings have already begun.
I would like to make a prayer request...Pray for my three beautiful children, my mother, all my street family and for Christopher.