Here is the touching story of Sherry H., a client of First Stop since 2008.
The letter is to those who loved me, until I could learn to love myself!
My name is Sherry H. I was homeless, off and on, for a little over 10 years here in Huntsville. You may ask how I became homeless. Well, simply put, the man I was in a relationship with went to prison and his family dropped me off here. I was hopeless, homeless, and broke. I worked through the local labor pools for about eight years to support my drinking and smoking habits. I slept in the local missions until I was kicked out of there because of my drinking. I drank most of the time to cope with my unbearable and deplorable living conditions of sleeping in abandoned houses, and on back porches. Obviously, other squatters slept at these places as well, thus the smell. I learned to sleep with one eye open for safety reasons. It got to the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. Wake up at 3:30 a.m., hung-over and needing a drink, so I could be at the labor pool by 4:45 a.m. to go to work. And then the first miracle happened! A friend of mine told me about First Stop and how they might be able to help me.
I went to First Stop on October 29, 2008, and became a First Stop client. My case worker gave me a home (a tent) at a safe location, where there were other homeless people just like me (safety in numbers) – what a blessing. First Stop provided me access to the day center where I could take care of basic necessities: a shower to bath in (yeah!), a washing machine to wash my dirty clothes in, a phone to handle my business on and of course, a place to meet with my case worker to discuss my progress or the lack of (tough love).
If you ever thought your job was hard, try being a First Stop case manager; and with the homeless who are often hopeless because a large portion of society prefers to ignore them. Thus, the homeless tend to fade away and live their life as if they had no life at all. Yes, many of us have addiction problems, are disabled, are veterans and are unable to work due to old age, or because of our addictions. However, this is where First Stop has helped me. My case manager and I determined together where my personal problems lie, and then we developed a plan of action that in time would help me to return to being a productive and responsible citizen. This process was by no means something that occurred overnight.
When I became a client of First Stop, I was physically, mentally, and spiritually bankrupt. My case manager gave me vouchers to go to the Community Free Clinic so they could help me with my health issues. My mental health also needed addressing. My case worker set me up with Madison County Mental Health Center, and First Stop employees made sure I got to and from appointments. My teeth are rotting out of my head, and thanks to donations to First Stop, I am able to see a dentist and have the bad ones pulled. I am given shuttle tickets or a ride by First Stop employees so I can make my appointments for Food Stamps. Donations have helped me get medicines I have had to take after going to the emergency room or dentist. They have also given me shuttle tickets to go to the Salvation Army Thrift Store to get new clothes. First Stop employees provided all of these services and many more based on donations and available funding.
I am so grateful to all who have helped fund what I like to call the second miracle in my life. Because of the services provided by First Stop, I am no longer homeless. I could have never managed this miracle on my own. I LOVE my case manager. I consider them as part of my family. Looking back, living in a tent wasn’t easy. I whole heartedly believe it was bearable due to the countless number of Christians, from various churches, who would come to the camps, and would share the word of God with us. They would bring me and others “Hope” and unconditional love, precious gifts I had not seen in many years. Some would bring us food to nourish our bodies with and blankets, clothes, and wood to keep us warm. Every week they would return; pray with me and for me. They never gave up on me. Next is the third miracle in my life and the most important!
I started getting these ideas in my head that maybe God did love me. I had already learned that if I was not stubborn and asked for help the outcome would usually be good. So, the first thing I asked God to do for me was to open the eyes of my heart and to give me hope. I would pray every day for hope. I became hopeful; hopeful that I would not die being homeless and drunk under a bridge. I started going to bible study at First Stop, with Mike Gordon as the pastor from The Rock Family Worship. I learned about God’s unconditional love for me at bible study and going to church on Sunday. I learn something new every day.
Let me tell you about the final miracle that has changed my life forever. I started attending church on Sunday, held at First Stop. The Bridge is the name of my church. I wanted to stop drinking for good and the fellowship of the church helped me begin my recovery process. What a blessing it is to be sober today, to have hope in my heart, to no longer be homeless, and to know that God works through people to share his unconditional love.
I thank God that I don’t have to drink today – what a miracle! My story wouldn’t be complete without giving a special thanks to three very important people who weathered the storms with me all along. Thank you – Sherry B. (The Grateful Life Community Church), Mike G. (The Rock Family Worship), and my case manager at First Stop for being unconditionally dedicated to helping me until I could help myself and for never giving up on me. The “old me” had to die, so the “new me” could begin a new life. Thank you, to all of you behind the scenes, who donate your time, your money, and your efforts to helping the homeless. You really do make a difference! You have made a life changing difference in mine. May God, bless you and keep you as you continue your journey through Life.