Sometimes messes in our lives are our own making and sometimes they are not. No one ever sets out to be homeless. Disarray is never the objective, it’s just the messy outcome of decisions or circumstances.
Michelle describes her life this way: a mess. In her younger years, she had made some bad choices, but she was also dealing with serious psychological issues stemming from past abusive relationships. Her marriage ended, and she was struggling to find herself.
“I lost my children, I lost everything,” she said. “I lost hope.”
Instead of seeking help, her response was to run. She began moving from city to city, shelter to shelter. She would stay long enough to accumulate some money, then leave to go to the next place. She never forced herself to deal with the root causes of the issues, and it became a cycle.
“A few months ago, my spirit got tired,” she said. “I was tired of the roller coaster. It was like I was just going in a circle. The only thing that has been holding me together was the fact that I do love God and God is still there. I know He's there. Even though it gets rough sometimes, I know He's still there.”
Michelle knew she needed something to change in her life. She headed for Charlotte and the Salvation Army Center of Hope.
“I needed my life back. I needed Michelle back. I needed to be a part of society again, and not just exist in society.”
The homeless life is a life of isolation, helplessness, and in many cases, hopelessness. For Michelle, it seemed like she was reaching for something but couldn't get it. “I couldn't mend the broken pieces. It just wouldn't come together. I was feeling like nobody was there.”
That is, until she found the Center of Hope.
“When I got to the Center of Hope, it was just different. It was like I was in a place where I could relax. It was a place of refuge. And, God was in it. The transformation began. The real transformation.”
One morning, Michelle got up and looked in the mirror. She decided that she wanted to live and not die. Her eyes were opened to the resources at the Center of Hope that were at her fingertips: the staff, the workshops, the financial classes, the friendships. She describes it like a treasure chest.
“It's open to you. You choose which jewel you want out of it. Prayer warriors, the people you encounter, the workshops, they are all there. You’ve got to reach in the treasure chest and get it. I made up my mind to do what I can do, and God will do the rest. I had to humble myself and say ‘I'm a mess, and this is what I have to do to make my mess a message.’”
Just recently, Michelle was hired (out of hundreds of applicants) to be a medical assistant at a doctor’s office. She’s found a stable place to live with the help of Center of Hope case managers, and at 53, she’s putting her life back together.
Her message to others in similar situations?
“We are in this situation, and in order for us to get the stuff, we've got to change. In order for us to change, you've got to know what to change. And, in order to know what to change, you’ve got to know where to go to get it.”
For Michelle, the Center of Hope was just that place. There, her faith in God grew and she found the resources and support she needed to get back on her feet.
“I don't look at the Center of Hope as a shelter. I look at it as a place of refuge where you come and rest. Deliverance is here if you want it, but you've got to want it. It starts with you. I'm not just here for my bed or for my food. It's what these people are saying. That's my food.”
“I ain't arrived, but I'm striving. The Center of Hope was my new beginning. It can be anybody's new beginning.”