Being the Peer Support Specialist at Love Wins Community Engagement Center gives me a look into the lives of our community members with a unfiltered eye. I get the opportunity to sit with quite a few of them on a one on one basis, learning their hardships, what makes them who they are and why they are in the positions they are in. My job is to listen with no judgement and a open heart.
Ally* was 19, living alone in a tent after her boyfriend went to jail. We did our best at Love Wins for her to get her resources, but there was only so much we could do. So we threw it out to the Universe (and Facebook!) that this young girl was alone in the woods and had potential to do great things if given the chance.
Someone reached out to me the next morning and offered to help. I got up, put on my shoes and started looking for her – our people are hard to track down at times. I managed to find her at The Oak City Outreach Center. As soon as I told her what was going on I could see the excitement in her eyes.
Ally was being given a chance. I went with her to go talk to a couple of people about a place to lay her head for a little bit and the possibilities of jobs. She got to take a shower, eat a good meal, and sleep in a safe environment.
For the next week I saw her less than I normally do, but I knew she was going to be ok. She checked in with me regularly and let me know that she was making new friends. I was so happy for her.
For our folks, living arrangements can change fast, and they did for Ally. I got a phone call at 10:30PM that she was going to be outside, in downtown Raleigh.
I got out of bed and put my shoes on. I wasn’t going to let her stay downtown with nowhere to go. I would have wanted someone to come be with me, to answer to my call when I was homeless, alone, and unprepared. I know the gut feeling you get alone at night as a young woman. I told her to stay where she was I was coming to her.
I was walking so fast I was probably running. I told her it would take me 20 minutes, tops, to get to her, but I was determined to get there before 15. I think I ended up getting there in 12. As I walked up over the little hill I could see her in the distance in her bright blue interview blouse she had worn all day while job hunting. She did a little hop and started in my direction.
I let out a sigh of relief when I knew she was safe, but now we had to discuss what was our next move, which was to get Ally a safe place for the night.
By 5:30 the next morning she was up and going. We developed a list of things that she needed to do that day and we sent her on her way. She hustled hard that day, found a side job to make a little cash and was able to find a safe place to be. All on her own.
It’s not the place she wants to be but it’s a safe place to be for now. She has a job working on Saturdays and Sundays and every now and again she picks up a side gig. She hasn’t given up. She won’t give up. Even though she looks like a porcelain doll, she definitely isn’t, for she can’t be broken.
Ally* and I will keep doing what we can to keep her moving forward. And I’ll be there with her as her friend that uplifts her. As Hugh Hollowell put it so beautifully once, “I may not be able to pay your light bill, but I’ll come sit in the dark with you”.
I will sit in the dark with her. Or anyone else that doesn’t want to go through it alone. That is what I do. I am a Peer Support Specialist.