Friday, March 29, 2013

Women in Same Circumstances Yet Different

Meeting other women members here at Haven for Hope has really been a surprising joy for me.  I thought I'd come here and keep my head tucked in and be to myself most of the time.  Fortunately, that is not the case here when you are constantly living with more than 200 other women in close quarters.  You can't help but form relationships.  You still need good boundaries but I'm finding good women friends here.

(just a random picture because of confidentiality, but it looks just like the reading room at Haven for Hope) 
When I first came on campus and was settling into my bunk and locker, I just tucked my head and wanted to be left alone.  I got my things halfway in order in my locker and bin under my bunk, made my bed, and fell into it.  I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. It was Friday afternoon, so nothing was planned for the weekend.  I covered my head and slept to my heart's content.  The lights are left on at night on my side of the dorm, so I literally had to cover my head for darkness.  It felt safe and good to have a little space where I belonged for the time being.  "If I can rest up enough to muster up the strength to carry on, I will be okay," I thought. After being here about a month now, I notice this is a pattern for the women that come here.  They seem to fall into their beds for healing sleep for a time before settling more fully into the dorm.

Many of the women I meet have gone through very similar circumstances as I have.  They are somewhat older and their children are grown, and we find ourselves alone as single older women. Circumstances begin to unfold in our lives where we begin to feel somewhat frazzled and overwhelmed.  Some of us begin to live with family members for comfort, or we become caretakers of our parents or other relatives and move in with them. We count on this lasting for awhile and suddenly something comes up that causes us to have to move out, and we find ourselves homeless and with no resources.  I know there are many reasons for women being homeless.  Another is addiction to drugs or alcohol and women are assigned by a judge in court to go to the addiction recovery side of Haven for Hope. Once the women significantly recover, they can move into the member side of Haven for Hope and continue with a total transformative experience in their lives.  I began my journey on the member's side and met many of the brave and determined women that came through the recovery program and now bunk on the member's side.  It is very diverse here and so nice to be part of the diversity.... diversity of cultures, race, sexual preference, varied diagnoses, various walks of life ... yet we are all women and have a feeling of camaraderie and support for each other as we blend and heal together in this small community.

We have fun here as well.  I'm learning to ride the bus for transportation.  We all plan to head to a $1 movie next Thursday by way of the Via bus.  Some nights we sit out in the women's courtyard that is very comfortable and nicely landscaped.  There are table with umbrellas and picnic tables and benches sitting around a spacious patio area.  One of the ladies plays her guitar and sings very well.  We've listened to her rendition of Sarah Mclachlan, Beyonce, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, Garth Brooks, John Lennon, and more.  She is a very talented song writer and vocalist/guitar player.  She sings her original songs to us as well and they are really very good.  All the women in the courtyard will clap for some songs and mostly they are for her original songs.

We sit and chat together in the cafeteria breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they have movies for us to attend in the chapel on most Friday evenings, long workshops to attend on Saturdays, shorter workshops to attend during the week.  We bunk so close together that we see each other in the middle of the night as we wake to go to the restroom, or in the morning when we first wake up.  We can just look at our bunk mates on each side of us and smile at them as they are still in their bed.  We hear each others noises as we get in our lockers and we put up with it because they put up with our noises.  I do use ear plugs at night, though, and a sleeping mask to darken the room.  I don't think I would sleep well without those aides.  Many do, but not me! In fact I wear my ear plugs a lot just so I don't hear every little conversation and noise that goes on.  Many have learned to nudge me when they are trying to say something to me because they know I have my ear plugs in.  It is my saving grace to have enough silence in my life.

Every Monday evening Starbuck's serves the women coffee and pastries.  It is a real treat to get really good pastries. Some of the workshops provide food and drinks too.  The best refreshments so far is from the ladies from a local church who came and presented an Art and Meditation workshop.  They had several trays of homemade cookies, brownies, and fruit.  Also, Aveda the manufacturer and distributor of hair products, a subsidiary of Estee Lauder, brought submarine sandwiches and gave us all very nice t-shirts.  It may sound like I'm talking about food a lot but it is really a treat.  The cafeteria serves a very basic meal and very small amounts so we are still hungry much of the time. I'm not sure why the cafeteria is so modest in it servings and quality of food...but that is a subject for another time.

I guess what I'm trying to express is that there is comfort and friendship here which is an unexpected pleasant surprise for me.  I miss the women when I'm gone or they are gone.  Just the mere closeness of everyone causes the relationships to blossom and it is nice to have friends.  It is easier at Haven for Hope for me to make friends than when I was at work or attending church.  At work and church it was more convenient for everyone to go their own way when the day is done or the church service is over.  When I felt the need for a friend, it was hard for me to express it.  I wanted balance between being friends and having time to myself.  I just didn't put myself out there to be a friend, and I felt that others did the same.  Or, I met someone who wanted all my time and attention and I just couldn't fulfill that role for them.  Anyway, we all in here together and that makes it more convenient to be together as friends.  The women I've met here at Haven for Hope understand that I need my alone time and eventhough we are in such close quarters, I can still manage to find a silent sanctuary for myself. Many times when we are together watching something on tv, we don't even talk much.  It's like an intuitive knowing that we don't have much privacy and when we sense that someone needs privacy....we give it to them the best way we can in this setting because we recognize their need for time alone to heal and grow.

I appreciate the women I've come to know who have helped me tremendously in so many ways.  I hope as I listen to their journey that I've have been a source of comfort and encouragement to them as well.

Of course there is a down-side to this setting at times, but I don't want to bring that into this story of love, friendship and comfort.

With heartfelt gratitude,

Havenista Hope

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

From the INSIDE - Met with Casemanager 3 Times Now

 Initial Two-hour Visit with Casemanager

It was very surface at first.  I could not go deep but as the conversation took its course, I became more comfortable and ended up telling a short version of my life story.  She listened patiently and inserted many supportive comments.  I even thought she teared up at one point.  I know I did.  My eyes were swollen and face red by the end of that initial visit.  She asked me to put my goals into words and I could not verbalize any.  I went blank and thought to myself.  I just don't have any goals.

Since I was accepted into Haven for Hope on a Friday afternoon, I did not see my casemanager until the following Friday.  She was out of the office on Monday and had her schedule full until that Friday. I was happy to have a whole week to settle in and not really think about much of anything.  I had felt so much pressure from trying to figure everything out and physically down-sizing and moving my stuff.  I thought my casemanager would put me on a schedule that would busy up my life with all kinds of stuff.
She is younger than me but I began to build confidence in her ability to work with me after the first visit.  She was calm, genuinely listened to my story and gave me as much time as I needed.  I became somewhat tired after telling it all that I just wanted to stop talking, so we did.  She began to tell me some things she heard me saying to her, and I finally felt like I had a few goals that worked for me.
  1. Meaning in Life
  2. Stability
  3. Chance to Start Over
  4. Happiness

She told me that the type of counseling they did is called person-centered which helps to develop goals and plans to work toward those goals, and to find the services and resources needed to be successful.  Initially she wants to meet with me 2 times a week.
The services and resources began with getting a TB shot and dental care. TB was negative and my blood sugar level was 107 which is good. The top figure if my blood pressure was elevated at 194/82, and my weight was much more than I want to mention here.  I've not been to the dentist yet because I had to cancel my appointment.  I need to re-schedule it.
Next services my casemanager set me up with were:
  •  ID Recovery to get a copy of my social security card
  •  Medical appointment for specific issues such as blood pressure, swelling of feet, female exam and breast exam
  • Vision exam
  • Counselor appointment
  • Possible Mental Health Psych Exam

Other Services to be used soon but not set up at this time:
  • Group work for Depression
  • Group work for Grief and Loss
  • Financial Counselor to help in applying for SSDI if applicable, or whatever is needed
  • Job Coach for resume help and assistance in applying for a job 
  • Applying for Food Stamps
  • Referrals to organizations such as Dress for Success and so forth
There is so much guidance and assistance that I have not covered it all.  Most of what I have mentioned can be done from the Transformation Center Building (TC building) right here on campus across the lawn from the cafeteria and chapel.
I was a bit taken back with all that was offered to me.  I applied on a Wednesday and my appointment and Drug/Alcohol test was on Friday.  I was sleeping in the dorm that evening, Friday, March 1, 2013.  I couldn't believe how quickly it happened for me.  Sometimes you have to be put on a waiting list.  I was fortunate and entered right in.
During the week before I met with my casemanager, I got familiar with the schedule and rules and looked around the campus.  I saw flyers for Art & Meditation to be held on Saturday in the Chapel from 1-4.  I attended that and it was pleasant enough.  The ladies from the church were very open-minded and talked about the energy field of the body and the chakras.  We discussed meditation and did it twice.  We did some fun art for expression and discussed color symbolism and other symbolism we drew in our art.  Then they provided us with several trays of home-made desserts and drinks.  It really was very special. 
I also started going on Tuesday to a lady that volunteers her time to do Health Touch here on campus.  They give her a room and she sets up her massage table.  It is very soothing and refreshing.  You can sign up for as long as 30 minutes on Tuesdays.  I attended one yoga class and it was definitely a little much for me but hopefully I will keep trying to go.  I didn't go the last two weeks.
We have chores in the dorm that rotate which I appreciate very much.  Still a maintenance man cleans our bathroom every day and he is very good at his job.  He went through Haven for Hope and the Maintenance program here.  After he graduated, Haven for Hope hired him.  So he does his work as if he is giving back and helping others.
Living and eating in such close quarters with other women, you can't help but make connections with some of the other women.  You are drawn to some and they, in turn, are drawn to you.  One of the friends I made has been here 5 months longer than me, so she gave me lots of tips.  I went with her to Dress for Success and saw how they helped her and what that program was all about.  I was very impressed.
So you can do as little as you want or be as involved as you want.  Most things such as the yoga and chapel events are optional.  It's easy to get too busy too.  I don't want to do that either. 
I have a focus to seek real transformation in my life, not just a surface thing but deep transformation in my inner life that will give me back meaning.  A real chance to start over with happiness in my life and with others that I am involved with such as my adult children and grandchildren.  I hope it really makes the difference that last a lifetime, the rest of my lifetime.  I'm counting on it, and the more I interact with what is offered at Hope for Haven, the more assurance I receive that it just may be possible for all of us that come here. 
In my second visit we set up further services and I told the casemanager about making the decision to stay at Hope for Haven and continue to go through the transformation.  I wrote about this in another story on here. (click here to go to that story)

My last visit was yesterday and it was very revealing as well.  She had a deck of Value Cards to help me focus on more specific issues at this time. 

After going through about 100 cards, I came up with my top 5:
  1. Be forgiving of others
  2. Feel like my life matters to me
  3. Follow the traditions that are important to me
  4. Have a peaceful mind
  5. Sleep well and wake refreshed
It sounds simple, like common sense should tell you these things.  I wrote everything down in a spiral notebook.  It was profound for me.

It is my very good fortune to have such a resourceful and skilled casemanager.  She has gained my trust in working with her and I like that very much!

Friday, March 15, 2013

From the INSIDE - Almost Left H4H

Never Thought It Would Be Easy But ...

March 15, 2013

But I never thought it would be such a shock to my system.  I thought I was prepared to live on the fly and without much. Before I came to Hope for Haven, that is what I was doing.  I had dwindled my possessions down to hardly anything.  Working at several different jobs over the last two years and moving around a lot, my life became unattached to mainstream hopes and desires.

It was the second time I had given all my possessions to my children.  I kept enough to furnish a small bedroom ... a daybed, chest of drawers, small table with 2 chairs, small tv. clothes, toiletries, a few pairs of shoes, office chair and my desktop and laptop computers.  The possessions became too much for me to move around.  I was moving so much that no one really wanted to help me move anymore.  I began to give away the really heavy furniture and keep all that was easy for me to move by myself.  I started not asking for my family or anyone to help me and just did what I could on my own.
It is kind of neat to walk into your children's homes and see all your stuff there.  I would think, 'this is what it would look like if I had died and I'm getting to see how they decorated with it.'  I thought that was cool.  At first my children kept asking me if I wanted some of my stuff back.  Some things they had already made apart of their home and wanted to keep, but some stuff they offered to give it back to me.  I took some back when I started trying to furnish a  small apartment I had rented.  I really wanted them to keep what I had given them and only give me back what they didn't need.  From there I went to renting a bedroom from a lady who had just married and moved out to the ranch with her new husband.  They wanted to keep the home in town and so it worked out for a short time.
I keep talking about my children.  I have two daughters and a son.  They are all grown and married now.  The youngest, my son, just got married about a year ago.  My two daughters both have two children of their own.  So I'm a Mimi and have a fairly large family.  I love them very much and I know they love me.  My journey has been hard for them, yet they still want what is best for me.  Heck, I don't even understand it all myself because it has been so different. My mom asked me why it was this way for me, and I told her I didn't know why I had taken this path.  It was as if the path had chosen me.  At an earlier time in my life I thought I had the will, determination and energy to achieve and attain material wealth, power and happiness. I rode that pony into the wild blue yonder as long as I could.  Like most, that fantasy fell by the wayside and it seemed that others were able to move on, but for me my life stopped.  Everyone else continued living and it looked as if I did too.  But I was peering at life as if I was an observer and not part of it anymore. My wounds came bubbling to the surface and I was drowning in hopelessness. 
But ... back to Haven for Hope.  After being on campus for 2 weeks and still just settling in, I went to one of my daughters for a visit.  My first visit away from H4H.  We can have no visitors here on the campus.  It is gated with security checks at both entryways.  Only members, as we are called, can be inside the gated campus.  We are free to leave any tiime with a curfew to be back by 10:30 pm unless working a night job.  During my first two weeks, I ate out with my son for an afternoon but came back.  This time I was invited by my daughter to spend the night.  It was spring break for my two grandkids and I thought it would be fun.  I knew other members spent the night out, but I was suppose to arrange it with my casemangager.  I called the dorm and talked to a lady that monitors our dorm.  She said to call and leave a message on the casemanagers answering machine and went on to explain that I need to get approval first next time.  So, I was out for the night, sleeping in familiar surroundings with my loving family close by my side.  I was home.
The first night spilled over into 2 nights away, then 3 nights, 4, and finally a whole week had gone by.  I asked my daughter if I could stay in her home and not go back to Haven for Hope.  I told her of all the shocking incidents, non-privacy, bickering among the women, coughing and hacking in the dorm room at night.... really just anything negative I could think of.  She felt so sorry for me and said, 'yes I could stay with her'. 
I had already tried to stay with her before and it was very hard on her marriage if they were to reconcile.  Right now she and her husband are trying trying to make their marriage work after an extended separation. Her 2 children are ages 10 and 4 and it helps some with Mimi (me) there, but mostly I feel I'm in the way.  She really wants to make the marriage work.  I hope that he is as determined to make it work as she is but that is their journey.
In the meantime, my son gets wind of me trying to stay at his sister's.  He works for the city and is the one who initially told me about Hope for Haven.  He had met a lady, with a Master's degree, that had just been through Hope for Haven and was now working again.  He said she reminded him of me.  I also have a Master's degree and still came upon troubled times just like this woman.  Well, my son was so disappointed that I wanted to leave Hope for Haven (H4H).  He talked to me very strongly and hurt my feelings very deeply but I knew he thought he was doing the right thing.  He brought me to H4H for a tour because he had never seen the side of the campus where I would stay if I came here.
We couldn't take a tour so we went to Intake, and they had me fill out some paperwork to see if I qualified to get in.  I thought it was like buying a car.  You see if you qualify and then decide if you want really buy the car or not.  DO YOU EVER NOT BUY THE CAR IF YOU QUALIFY!!!  That is what happened to me.  I qualified to stay at Haven for Hope if I passed the drug testing.  Did I stay?  Did you buy the car you last qualified for?  Yes, I just stayed!  I thought this is where life is leading me, and I will see this through.  I surrendered.  We had to come back for an appointment in 2 days because that is when my son could bring me back.  I took the drug test and entered H4H that same day.
So, my son had invested significant time and energy into me being at this place.  Really he had done a lot of research to help me with agencies but when he saw what H4H offered. It was the whole tamale wrapped up in a neat package of on-site services and living quarters.  He could let H4H take on the responsibility he felt for me and they could do it in a professional capacity.  He was not a happy camper when his sister said I could stay with her and the kids again.
I stood my ground with my son and did not back down in that conversation.  He clearly thought I was not making a good decision and told me all the reasons why.  It was hard to hear but I love my son dearly.  I thought .. he is young...25 ... and a new cop. He wants to save his mom.  But, in reality, he saw what I saw at Haven for Hope.  It was hope for a new way of life for his mother.  He saw how I struggled and he called what he was doing with me "tough love".  Well, I knew what he was talking about but he was harsh and very legalistic in his presentation to me.  I kept talking about being compassionate but I knew his heart and how he loved me. He didn't want to lose his mom to depression and suicide as he thought he did in 2003. It was nearly fatal and I recovered without any damage that I am aware of from all the prescription drugs I took. This is where my son is coming from, where my whole family is coming from.  It's hard to surrender to this but I have to make it work this time.
Haven for Hope may be the answer.  We'll see. I saw my casemanager yesterday and I came back today.  Ready to make a difference in my life and the lives of my kids and grandkids. 
Havenista Hope





Wednesday, March 13, 2013

From the INSIDE - The Beginning

This is my journey as I actually live at HAVEN FOR HOPE. It is my wish that I am successful and help others as well.

Haven for Hope claims to transform the lives of homeless men, women and children. According to a study of homeless and marginally housed people 32% of women reported either physical or sexual victimization in the previous year. Many have childhood sexual or physical abuse in their past.

Since I'm a single woman, my journaling will be geared for them, but families and single men stay in this transformational community for the homeless as well.

campus lit up at night - shows chapel and dormitories 

not sure which building this is yet

43-acre facility much like a 2-year college campus with dorms

bunk beds are side by side in the women's dorms sleeping approximately
100 ladies or more in Phase 1 area and 100 ladies or more in Phase II area

Nice cafeteria but food is not very good quality and
the portions they serve are very small.  Suppose to be
2000 calories but I'd say about 800 calories.  They also
serve cartons of pudding that are expired.  Many members
go to bed still hungry at night.  It's definitely not the larger
portions I saw in some of the photos on Google. 

This is called "The Warehouse" and you receive vouchers to go
there and pick out items of clothing, shoes, bedding and so forth.  It
is very packed in tightly and many things are thrown in large bins.
Still it is nice to go there and "shop" for things you need.

This is the beginning of my journey through the program.... I plan to document it here on Google in eBlogger, Google+, YouTube and on Facebook as best I can. I hope it helps me to give hope to other women. We'll see if help is really there!


Havenista Hope

Click here to go to their website:    Haven for Hope Organization - San Antonio, TX