When Amy* was connected with CaringWorks a little over two years ago, she was desperate for a way out of her situation. So desperate, in fact, that she became suicidal.
“It was a last-ditch effort for me.”
Amy found herself homeless after taking medical leave from her job to have surgery. She moved to Atlanta where the surgery was more cost-effective, and when her initial plans to stay with family didn’t work out, she had nowhere else to go. She entered the shelter system, couldn’t get the surgery she needed and ended up losing her job.
“What happened to me, in part, happened because of several medical events in a row that depleted my finances and made me more vulnerable,” she said.
Amy tried to get back on track, even securing a job while she was in a shelter. But then COVID-19 hit and her job was eliminated, and it became even more challenging to find a shelter where she could stay.
“The priorities were given to women and children first, and then women with disabilities. There was an overflow of single women like me.”
Then, Amy was struck in the head one night while sleeping and she suffered a traumatic brain injury.
“I was afraid and concussed. I didn’t go back to the shelters after that. I simply got lost on streets.”
Amy says that it was more difficult to find help because even though she was experiencing significant challenges resulting from the brain injury, and she was struggling with mental health issues emerging from other past trauma, she presented to others as if she was ok.
“I seemed reasonably functional,” she said. “I didn’t have alcohol and drug issues, for example.”
Amy eventually got help from Mercy Care’s homeless program and Intown Collaborative Ministries, and a team leader with Intown connected her with CaringWorks. A CaringWorks program director secured an apartment for her to live, and Amy says it was lifesaving. She says she had become so hopeless that she was planning suicide.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for that,” she said. “The timing was critical.”
Having the stability of a home served as a foundation for Amy’s recovery. Along with other support, CaringWorks helped her get the medical attention and mental health care she needed, and they are working alongside her as she creates a plan for her future.
“CaringWorks is always asking, ‘Where are you at now? Let’s see what the next step is.’ They are helping me create a step-by-step plan, which is really supportive. The whole time I’m doing this I don’t have to worry about getting kicked out on the streets. CaringWorks gives you space and time to work it out. You don’t have to use a quick fix Band-Aid where you’ll break down again. You can stop being afraid and have the time to rebuild.”
Throughout her experience, Amy says she learned a lot about how our society views the homeless population, and she encourages people to be more compassionate and understanding. She says that people who have experienced homelessness—or who might find themselves in that situation—could be anyone.
“Any time we have an opportunity to take a look at what’s really going on with homeless people instead of segmenting them off, we should do it. The homeless population is extremely diverse. Every story is different. One size does not fit all. Part of what hurts people who become homeless and who are in the shelter system is the ‘otherism’ that society creates about them.”
When asked what she’s looking forward to about her future, Amy said, “Well, that there will be a future.” She added, “I’m very grateful. Caring actually does work.”
*The client’s name was changed at her request for anonymity.
Built on the single idea that all people—no matter their social or economic standing—should have a chance to improve their quality of life, CaringWorks has served thousands of clients throughout our 20-plus-year history. Since our inception, we have grown exponentially to become one of Georgia’s leaders in providing permanent supportive housing. We serve hundreds of individuals each year through unique programs and services that are specifically tailored to the needs of those facing chronic homelessness.
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