The women and children we serve are homeless, NOT helpless. The stories shared below are a mere glimpse of the lives that have been transformed at St. John's, thanks to your support.
Read Their Stories:
Almost a year ago,Kena was living in a storage unit without any of her children, terrified, jobless and homeless. Her life had spiraled downward after her home care client died and she and her 3 children had to leave her home, with nowhere else to go. Then she was badly injured in a car accident and could no longer drive or walk well. Her children went to their father and Kena was alone. The VOA found her at the storage unit, took her to a motel and then to St Johnís which miraculously had room for her immediately.
Kena is a strict and structured mother. She is also a committed helping person. Giving comes naturally to her and gives her great satisfaction. At St Johnís she not only embraced and followed the rules but voluntarily took on big projects to help support the center. She felt she was and continues to be a contributing member of a supportive and loving community.
†Today, Kena is finishing an internship at St Johnís and hopes to become a supervisor. †She lives in a town home with all of her children. She feels she is providing them with the stability and order she values.She can still canít drive and makes a 3 hour commute so that her kids can live only a few blocks from their fatherís. St Johnís helps her with her schedule so that she can be there for her children. Thanks to Kena , they didnít even have to change schools. Her hopes for them are high-good grades, happiness and success in the world and she passionately believes she will help them get there.
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Bernadette began her stay at St. Johnís with a bad attitude-angry, defiant, paranoid and rude. She rebelled against the rules, both for herself and her teenagers Bryanna and Brandon. She had finally left her bad marriage and she trusted no one. She had used up all of her temporary shelter resources and was about to be homeless. Bernadette knew she needed a safe place to regroup and create a new life for her family, but she was suspicious of any help. When she mouthed off at a special event she realized she was blowing her last chance.
Bernadette seriously confronted her options and committed to succeeding step by step. As soon as she did so, she succeeded at each task and ďcaughtĒ the spirit of St Johnís, learning to accept and fully use its support and remarkable programs.
Today she is living in an apartment at Saybrook. She is completing computer training and will soon be able to support her family, including Bryannaís new baby, due May 21. She has volunteered at St Johnís computer room-enhancing both her own skills and teaching other clients. She says St Johnís helped give her the chance to create a path that will lead to a stable, secure and loving place for her family.
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Frankie Cookís problems were purely economic . Unlike many of the women at St Johnís, she did not have to overcome abuse, drugs, alcohol, disabilities or illness.
Frankie had worked for 17 years as a CNA. When her wages were garnished for public support of her older son she fell behind on her bills and her rent. Evicted, she lost her job as well and couldnít find a new one. She and her son Omari were living in a motel and running out of money when she called St Johnís, though she knew nothing about shelters.
Frankie says that †St Johnís was transformational for her.Everything she needed to put her life back together was there. The Womenís Empowerment program enhanced her already strong faith in herself. The budgeting class helped her realize how she had gotten into financial trouble and how to avoid it in the future. Her son was extraordinarily happy. Using these and other St Johnís resources, she was able to make a plan for herself and follow it with fierce determination.
Today she is in the Mather program and plans to return to work as soon as she completes it. She volunteers twice weekly at St Johnís and says she will always be a part of the community.
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Gloria Garciaís daughters-6 year old daughter Yurita and 10 year old Yosani-help translate for their mom. Like all little girls, they interrupt each other and squabble cheerfully . It is had to imagine that these bright, sunny children witnessed horrific spousal abuse of their mother by their father and were unsafe themselves. When Gloriaís injuries sent her to the hospital, the police called WEAVE and helped her find St Johnís after a short stay at another shelter.
More than anything else, Gloria needed a safe place for her daughters. They blossomed immediately with the opportunity to play and to learn to be children again. At St Johnís Gloria found †far more than †food, clothing, shelter and escape from abuse,. She even took classes in yoga and dancing-things sheíd never dreamed of trying. She also worked hard helping with chores and other families.
Today, Gloria and her daughters live with a family in exchange for daycare. Sheíd love to have a house of her home and believes that St Johnís has given her the skills and courage to make that dream a reality.
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Leta knew she needed St. Johnís. She called every day for weeks as her lease ran out and homelessness loomed ahead.Throughout her battles with drugs and alcohol her youngest child, 9 year old Nicole, had been with her. Her other children had scattered to aunts and uncles and she had lost touch with them. She was determined to become a good mother to Nicole.
Leta had stayed at other shelterís-even St. Johnís at its prior location-and †did not know what to expect this time. She says St. Johnís totally changed her life because it provided an entire program of support and skills, from a case manager who helped her make and implement a plan, to help becoming clean and sober, to safety, good schools †and day care for Nicole, to the Womenís Empowerment program.
Today Leta lives in a VOA apartment and walks Nicole to school every day. Sheís applied for long term housing and hopes to go back to school. She takes great joy in the fact that her oldest son is immensely proud of her and that she is reestablishing contact with her other children.
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Margaret grew up in Compton, California, when it was still a middle class family neighborhood with decent schools and safe streets. Her parents are still there but Compton has changed completely, to a dangerous place dominated by gangs, guns and drugs. When Margaretís daughter was killed by a gunshot, leaving Margaretís 8 year old grandson Cori, she knew she could not raise him in Compton. Despondent, but determined, she researched communities and womenís shelters on the internet. She got on a bus to Sacramento with $100 to her name. She paid for a motel room and started calling. Miraculously, St. Johnís had 2 spaces and Margaret and Cori were at the door immediately.
Margaret was amazed by St. Johnís, where she found all the support she needed to care for Cori and find a job and housing-right down to help with her job application to the state Franchise Tax Board. She was hired as a seasonal employee, but was quickly promoted to †tax program technician and became a permanent employee with benefits.
Margaret has just moved into a house with a yard and plans to take in foster children so that she can give them the childhood she has created for Cori.
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Years in prison and 21 years of addiction left their mark on Monica, even though she had completed her parole and given birth to †Nathaniel. When Nathaniel was 2 she was homeless, hopping with him from couch to couch, unable to get her life together. She found a live in care job, but had to quit when her client tried to abuse their relationship. Homeless again, a friend told her about St Johnís and she called daily for 45 days until there was a place for her and her son.
At St Johnís she finally had a safe place-free from the terrors of prison and temptations of the street-to confront her struggles with addiction,abuse and self esteem. Nathaniel-a special needs child-had the best of care and she was able to let go of her fears for him. Monica says she learned confidence and belief in herself, especially in the Womenís Self Empowerment course.
Today, she is in transitional housing and gives back to St Johnís as a motivational speaker and a volunteer, while she pursues a bachelorís degree in Philosophy, all as part of her new life.
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Making a Life After Prison
The dominos fell suddenly for Michelle Upchurch. Her son Kai Lee , was †born 12 weeks prematurely. She lost her job and was badly injured in a fire. She moved to Sacramento at the invitation of her best friend. Their sublease was terminated and they were evicted. Michelle was in what she calls a "crisis of self-sufficiency". She found emergency housing from the †County, which told her about St Johnís. She found a place for her family just as she reached the time limit.
It only took 5 weeks for Michelle to put her life back together. St. John's was the perfect place for her children and they loved it. Secure in their happiness, she quickly used St John's resources to find an apartment and become a full-time student at Sacramento City College. She is incredibly successful-a member of Phi Beta Kappa with a 3.5 GPA. She is majoring in Vocational Community Studies and has been accepted to transfer to to Sac State to complete her BA. In addition to her achievements as a mother and a student, Michelle is an intern at St Johnís and is on the Alumna Board. She plans to give back to St Johnís hour for hour and then give even more.
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Olliver Jean Jones is a minister who gave too much and lost herself. She opened her heart and home without judging others. She was living with a house full of drug addicts with her addicted daughter and 3 of her grandchildren when they were suddenly evicted. Terrified by her familyís life on the streets, she helped them find shelter at St. John's by calling daily for weeks. Knowing her daughter-who is now also a successful St Johnís alumna-and her grandchildren were safe gave her peace and the ability †to begin to heal her own mental illness and confront her other challenges. Still, she knew she needed more help and realized that St Johnís could work for her as well. She joined her family there and found the resources she needed.
Today, Olliver continues her ministry with a deep faith in Godís guidance and blessings-including her 8 month old granddaughter named Blessing. The difference †is that she now acts from a place of self esteem and courage, knowing that she can accomplish her goals.
She is an intern at St. John's and plans training and school to become a counselor, so that she can use her skills in listening to and caring for others. She lives on her own, but is also committed to help her children and her grandchildren to thrive with her as a united family.
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Patricia Kindred, her 28 year old daughter Priscilla and Patriciaís 15 year old half sister Naomi are a close family who truly need and rely on one another. Patricia is quiet and sometimes hesitant. Priscilla is vivid, brash, and vivacious and is fiercely protective of her mother and sister.
For almost 2 years, the family lived in a motel paid for a friend , even though Patricia and Priscilla worried about the motel life for Naomi and dealing with their own disabilities. When the friend stopped paying, they had only enough money for 2 nights more. †A member of their church congregation helped them find St Johnís.
It was their first time in a shelter and their expectations came from television pictures of soup kitchens and skid row. Instead they found structure, support and safety. The rules were like those in their own family, but they were shocked by the diversity of the difficult paths that had brought the other clients there.
They also found counselors who truly listened and gave them space to talk about their deepest secrets and-most of all-helped them to confront their challenges, deal with them and find self esteem.
Today, the family lives in their own apartment. Naomi is getting straight As in school and Patricia is in job training at St Johnís. They hope that with a job for Priscilla, disability payments for Patricia, Naomiís success in school. and a place of their own, they can apply the lessons from St Johnís to create a life. All return to St Johnís aftercare programs often.
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