Finding a Safe Haven After Years of Hardship

Sat, 10/19/2013 - 13:20 -- Anna

Elizabeth’s first step on the path to homelessness and desperation wasn’t drugs or alcohol. It was trying too hard to help others. 

She left her home state of Minnesota when she was twenty to get married. The relationship felt perfect, and they began devoting their time, as a couple, to ministries in major cities around the country. They worked with homeless people in Oklahoma City, feeding hundreds every day in an abandoned house. They helped young adults caught up in gangs in Chicago. Everywhere they went, their enthusiastic aid was sought after by both the needy and by those trying to help them.

Regrettably, this left no time to tend to her marriage, which ended in divorce several years later—Elizabeth taking off to Oregon to be near her brother. While there, she re-married, entering into what proved a much more sinister relationship. As the relationship unraveled, he began to stalk her, following her and hassling the people wherever she worked. Deciding to make a break for it, Elizabeth escaped to Wyoming, where she landed a job as a Resident Manager for a girl’s group home. 

She started seeing another man, but things weren’t right. Her health was deteriorating. Unbeknownst to her, she was being slowly sickened by an undetected gas leak in her home. Weeks went by, and no one caught it. Eventually, she suffered seizures and was rushed to the ER. By the time the leak was patched, she could barely string words together, and her boyfriend decided he couldn’t handle it. Elizabeth was alone. She lost her job. She lost her health insurance. She lost her friends. She lived on food stamps, scraping by while slowly regaining the faculties the gas poisoning had removed. 

Buoyed by the help of a counselor who treated her nearly for free, Elizabeth decided to return to her birthplace of Minnesota. Armed with her small therapy dog, Elizabeth completed the loop that she’d begun forty years earlier.

When she arrived, she found Mary’s Place, run by the Lakes Crisis & Resource Center. 

“It was frightening to start all over, but this building…should make anyone feel safe,” she said. 

“They can read the women really well—helping them analyze their goals, make plans, help clients make applications for housing and schooling, but each woman must take the responsibility to schedule their own appointments,” she said. “They also have a great program for the kids in the playroom so the women can take a few hours for themselves.”  

“The advocates are excellent, very kind. They don’t take it personally when the women vent,” she marveled.

Elizabeth’s goal is to work in a similar facility, helping people with addictions. She found a little apartment in Detroit Lakes—a one bedroom.  She hopes to enroll in M-State and then transfer to MSUM for her degree.

Despite all her struggles, Elizabeth says, “I’m just going to make it! I’m truly very thankful for this place!”