Resident Spotlight: Helen – At Home and Amazingly Resilient

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I was born at Cape Cod Hospital and grew up in Provincetown and Wellfleet. At eight years old I was raped by my mother’s boyfriend. I became a shell and withdrew totally for self-preservation. I believed what the adults in my life told me, “You aren’t good enough, even to get a simple thing like a driver’s license.”

I graduated from Wellfleet elementary and Nauset middle schools but was forced to drop out of Cape Cod Tech as a sophomore to care for my newly born sister; my severely alcoholic mother was too drunk to care for the baby. At fifteen, I was granted full custody of my new sister by DCF. There was no one else.

My mother went on to have another child and DCF intervened again and gave this second baby to me as well. I was now responsible for two children as a teen! How did I manage? I got my mother’s monthly SSDI checks to cover rent, food, and clothes. DCF was a steady and supportive presence. Even my mother, when sober, was a help. I have naturally good maternal instincts without any specific training. I seem to know just what is the right thing to do with kids. We lived in a nice, two-bedroom apartment in Eastham.

However, my major source of encouragement and help was my Godmother/aunt, five years junior to my mother. She was the one who taught me a work ethic and positive self-care. My aunt was always only a quick phone call away, and I called her often. Because of her, I am a responsible adult today.

My mother contracted COPD at sixty-five and died in a nursing home. I was forty-five by then. Having no self-esteem, being scared and very lonely, I sought out abusive men, ones that I knew about and to which I could relate. I thought that I didn’t deserve better. I have been married four times. These men have either been abusive, physically or mentally, drug addicts and/or liars and cheats. One got me hooked on heroin and caused me to live in a shelter for four years. The last is serving a lengthy sentence in a Massachusetts prison as a Level Three Sex Offender. I am still married, but I am seeking to divorce him and finally be free.

I dove into drugs, specifically Crystal Meth (speed) that let me escape from my horrific reality. For eighteen months I shot up meth, became homeless, lived in a tent for a winter. Finally, in desperation, I turned to the Duffy Center for help, was sent to Woman’s Hope in Jamaica Plains and learned to live recovery. I was clean and sober for fifteen years, relapsed and am now two solid years straight. I attend NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings three times a week and am helping to start a weekly AA meeting at my house.

As you might expect, my physical state is very poor. I have chronic hip and back pain, and migraines multiple times each week. I have had open heart surgery and a hysterectomy.

In April 2020, I believe that the Lord intervened and led me to Homeless Not Hopeless. I have lived here happily ever since. It is the safest, most secure place I have ever stayed. And stay is what I want. I feel so content and at home that I have withdrawn my application for Section 8 subsidized housing; I never intend to leave, unlike so many women who come to move on to go somewhere else. I am content right where I am. I was promoted to house manager in August. It has become a calling to care for and nurture the six other women who live together with me. I have a purpose. I am grateful for HnH’s educational program that has taught me new life skills. I now have a family of choice. I am blessed, grateful, joyful, and trusted for the first time in my life. Finally, I am safe and good enough.