“I’ve drawn every short straw in life,” says Tiara. She grew up poor, in a single-parent household. Three of her sisters died before she was 14, and she lost her mother just five years later. Determined to make a better life for herself, Tiara enrolled in college and worked to pay her tuition. Then life dealt her another short straw. She became a victim of domestic violence. “I didn’t know what to do or where to go for help,” Tiara recalls. Still working and attending classes full-time, she “bounced around from place to place,” sleeping on people’s floors.
On a cold day in January, she ran out of options. Tiara considered getting herself arrested so she could sleep in a jail cell and get a hot meal. Then she heard about the Open Door Mission, and her life finally began taking a turn for the better. “The Mission put a roof over my head,” Tiara says. “They helped me with the skills to be independent.” She appreciates having a strong support network. “The staff are all willing to help or listen if I need advice. It’s a positive place!”
Tiara completed her spring semester at college but opted to take a leave of absence while she focuses on her living situation. While staying in our new women’s shelter, Tiara is working as a dietary aide in a local nursing home. “I told them about my situation, and they could see I’m trying really hard to get back on my feet. They said they would give me as many hours as they could. They’re being really supportive.” Looking ahead, Tiara plans to return to school in the fall of 2021 and resume her studies in Early Childhood. In the meantime, she says, “I’m taking things day by day. I want to make sure I’m ready to be on my own. I don’t want to find myself in a situation where I can’t afford my rent and end up homeless again.”
Last Christmas, Tiara was alone, looking for a place to sleep. As we head into this Christmas, she is safe and loved. Even when Tiara makes it on her own, she won’t forget the compassion she found at Open Door. “We’ve become like a family,” she says.
*For privacy, Tiara is not pictured