Jolene's Story

woman balancing on a train track bridge

I really don't remember what happened. It was October 18th of this last year. I don’t know if I was walking across the street, or standing with a sign, I don’t know. I got hit by a car.

But it’s the best thing that ever happened to me, because Pathways had already contacted me. I thought they were full of it about getting me a place, but they couldn’t get me in to do paperwork. So that was actually how I started talking to Shawn [the Harm Reduction Peer Specialist] about the Pathways program. And Hillary [the nurse for Team 8] came up, and Dr. Hails [one of our psychiatrists] at the hospital. That’s where they got me to fill out the paperwork, there in the hospital. If it wasn’t for them, I would have gone right back out to the street.

My daughter’s still out there. She’s 21. That’s rough to watch. I turn 38 in July.

I was homeless for over two years. I went from being a 16 year old mom, being on my own since I was 15 - I never even rented an apartment, I rented my first house at 17, bought my house when I was 21. I never got welfare. I worked 2, sometimes 3 jobs, just to prove everybody wrong. You know, about your typical stereotype. I was clean for over 17 years. By the time I turned 18, by the time she was 3, I put everything down. And kept it down. Totally clean. For 17 years.

And then I lost my dad. February 2016. My younger brother went right after him, in August, just a couple of days before he turned 34. And then my Grandpop. I lost all three of them that same year. And then my husband went to jail. His parents wouldn’t give me his social security money to pay my rent, so I got locked out of my house two days before Christmas that year.

And I just… I just had nothing. I didn’t have anything. I had no reason to even try anymore. I threw everything in and gave up. Ended up on the streets. Homeless. No money, no nothing. And then, not even a year later, my daughter ended up out there with me.

Now, people down there, they look out for each other. So they’ll tell me, someone will tell me, every day that they’ve seen her and she’s okay. And that’s enough for me for right now. Because I know there’s nothing else I can do. You know? I would be the first one to say – when they [street outreach workers] would come down under the bridge, talking to everybody. I was like, “Detox? Rehab? My ONLY options? No. Not doing it. Not going to do it, won’t even pretend to entertain that thought,” because I wasn’t going.

Pathways came to me in the hospital, and Shawn was like “Finally! We got you sitting still! We got some paperwork for you to do, we have to talk to the doctor, and we can get you a place.” And I was like, “What??” I totally didn’t believe it. I don’t quality for section 8, or HUD, what other options are there? All of a sudden there was this. And it worked out really great.

Now I get Vivitrol. Oh my god, they fought with the hospital to get me that Vivitrol shot before I left. It was great. It’s been great. I got my seventh one last Tuesday. It’s a lot easier. Me? I’m not the type to do meetings and stuff like that. Stuff like this? A conversation? I love it. But I don’t understand that other stuff. I mean… there is so much more to life. I had 17 years where drugs were not even a passing thought. I had stuff to do, and more important stuff than that to think about. Anytime I find myself in any type of meeting or anything like that, where I try to talk about life, they just want to bring it back to that, to the drugs. No wonder people want to run! They tell you that you are supposed to eliminate that from your life, but then they make you continuously surround yourself with it.

I’m doing really well, though. I’m happy. It’s crazy. It’s absolutely crazy. Cause I’ve never been by myself before, ever, and I’m good with it. I mean, I don’t have a lot of friends. I’ve always been a hermit to begin with.

But, I write. I just started a blog, actually. I want to write a book, but I don’t know where to start, honestly. Just, all the crap. All the stuff. Nonfiction. Just what it’s like, you know? I wrote kid’s book when I was younger, in my twenties. I have 5 kids. I never published them, I just wrote them for my kids.

There’s just so much, you know? So much that seems to be happening in such a short period of time in my life. As much as I try to avoid it… but it’s cool. I wouldn’t give a day or a minute of it back. Because then I wouldn’t be where I’m at.

This is working really well for me, here at Pathways. I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. I went from having everything - and I got it on my own - to having nothing and no one. But I’m happy now, for the first time in my life. It took 37 years, but I feel like I’m making it. I’m making it work.


Blog Credit: Jolene, Pathways Team 8 participant