“Some days, it is just so hard to be homeless.”
Judy had a “normal” life. She had worked in inventory control for 17 years when her company asked her to come in on her day off to fill in for a co-worker. That day, while in a company van, the driver had an epileptic seizure. The van rolled and Judy lost consciousness. She woke up in the hospital, after being in an induced coma for weeks. Her doctor said, “Welcome to your new life.”
In addition to her broken body, Judy had suffered a traumatic brain injury. She spent nearly three years recovering and trying to cope with her disabilities: she had to learn how to walk, talk, and live again. She says, “I can remember things that happened 20 years ago, but not yesterday.” The brain injury affects her short-term memory, preventing her from holding steady employment.
Once her therapy was complete, her son who lived in Colorado, invited her to live with him and help out with the grandkids. However, when she and her son had a falling out, Judy had to leave. With nowhere to go and no work, she became homeless in the middle of the Colorado winter in February 2016.
Judy said it was a stressful experience. At first, it was difficult to even process the shift from a stable and secure lifestyle to one that was traumatic and isolating. She sat at Penrose Library for hours doing nothing – overwhelmed by what to do and how to start building a new life. “I was in a fog for the first month. I began coming to the Marian House Kitchen for meals and slowly built relationships with other people in the community.”
Soon she became acquainted with Velda, the Penrose-St. Francis Community Nurse and the staff at the Hanifen Employment Center at the Marian House, where she received help enrolling in Medicaid, SNAP, and other services. Judy says, “After about a year, I finally got it all figured out. I knew where I needed to go for specific services and began to share that information with others.”
Catholic Charities staff soon recognized Judy’s potential. She was organized and excellent at connecting people with resources, so they asked her to train as a Peer Navigator – helping others who were struggling to find resources.
Simultaneously, she began volunteering with local charities such as Seeds Community Café, the Concrete Couch, and the Echo (a newspaper designed to serve as income for people who are experiencing homelessness). She trained as a Peer Navigator, where she receives a small stipend, and also was hired to work limited hours for the Concrete Couch. The additional income, combined with her modest monthly disability payment, has allowed her to think about getting an apartment with three other women. She says, “I don’t know anyone who can make it alone. Even folks who are not homeless seem to live with 4 or 5 other people to be able to afford a place to live.”
Judy is excited to see what the future holds. She will continue working and volunteering because she says, “it makes me feel more normal.” Judy says she probably adjusted to being homeless better than others simply because she was in the process of beginning a new life as a result of the accident. She says, ”Some days it is just so hard to be homeless. People don’t understand that things happen that prevent you from getting out of that situation.”
Through her interactions with Catholic Charities, Judy found a paying job, unexpected friendships, and a community that she calls home.
At Catholic Charities, we respect everyone who comes to us for help. Many are working toward a fresh start in life. So while their stories are true, client names and images may have changed to protect their privacy.