Hi, my name is Jennie. Out on the streets, everybody knows me as Momma Jennie. I’m 46-years-old, and I have been homeless since October 10, 2014. I was married to my ex-husband for 24 years, and we raised three children together. The day our youngest son turned 18 was the day I left. I filed a restraining order and went to a shelter, Harmony House. He was charged with first degree domestic assault. I had to have the left side of my face reconstructed because he had been getting so abusive for the last twelve years of our marriage.
I divorced him and lost our house to foreclosure. We had been going through chapter 13 bankruptcy, and, of course, because he was facing a lot of time in prison for hurting me, he wasn’t very cooperative with the bank or the divorce. When I became homeless, it was quite unexpected. I stayed at Harmony House for nine and a half months because it was a big safety issue. I got an apartment and had a job, but I got attacked and my left leg was broken in two places. I moved out of town and I lost my job and all of that. I made arrangements to move in with my friend. I sent her $600 to help with half the rent and catch her utilities up, and when I arrived to town, I sent her a text and said “Alright now what’s the actual street address?” She informed me that her boyfriend had moved in over the weekend, and they thought it would be best if nobody else lived with them. And “Oh, I’m sorry I spent the money you sent me, I really needed it.”
So I became homeless with a broken leg and pretty much out of my element. I was scared. I was really scared. One thing I’ve learned, though, is that we’re a lot tougher than we give ourselves credit for. We’re a lot more resilient and we adapt. I adapted. It hasn’t been easy, but I have become a better person because of it. I’ve learned a lot of ugly truths about myself. For instance, being kind of a snob and judgemental and wrongly judging other people even though I’ve always proclaimed that I wasn’t that way. I put way too much stock into material things and I’ve learned how to live simply and be happy with very little. I’ve met some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life out here on the streets. I feel blessed to have them come into my life. They have taught me so much about the person that I want to strive to be. I’m homeless, but I’m not worthless. I think that says it right there.
I think the hardest thing about being homeless is struggling all the time not to lose hope, because I never ever in a thousand years would have ever imagined that I would be homeless. Or that I would lose everything I had worked so hard for. And I don’t think that anybody else out here thought one day “Gee, I want to be homeless today.” But once you do become homeless it is so hard to get back off the streets and it’s really really easy to lose hope and I think that’s the hardest thing.
I’m blessed every day that I wake up. My dream is to get a good paying job, get off the streets. Ideally I’d love to own a home again, but if not, I mean I’ll settle for a nice little two bedroom rental with a nice yard where I can have a perennial herb garden and an organic vegetable garden. And have just that little bit of stability where I can turn around and give back and maybe give somebody else that little bit of hope that they need, that hug when they need it when they’re at their darkest moment and feeling hopeless living out on the street. If I could just help that one person then it all makes it so worthwhile.