“My relationship with my kids is so much better than it used to be,” Terra says. “We pray together every night, and I pray with them before they go off to school every day. They know I’m okay now and that we’re stable.”
Terra glanced with a smile at her two sons, Jessie and Joshua, as they played on the swings at The Crossing, the Mission’s largest facility which hosts the New Life Program and STAR Transitional Program. “They’re such good kids,” she says with a sigh. “But they’ve lost so much.”
Terra has completed one year in the STAR program. She has less than year to go before she’ll graduate, but for her, so much has changed already.
She says that life wasn’t always this good, and admits that some of that was her fault. “I had a lot of opportunities,” she explains, “but I messed them up because I would start relationships with bad people. I was a big people-pleaser, and I was used by people a lot. It always came down to me losing everything and being back to square one.”
Growing up, Terra says she suffered various abuses. “I didn’t understand that people shouldn’t have been treating me the way they did,” she says. “Eventually, I turned away from God because I didn’t think I was worth his time.”
Terra endured serious psychological difficulties as a teenager and young adult. “I didn’t have the support I needed, and it all got brushed under the rug,” she continues. “I didn’t finish school. I started doing drugs, and I had a child who I gave up for adoption. Thankfully, he’s with a really good family now.”
Terra had three additional sons and continued to suffer from depression and the psychological effects of abuse in her relationships. Moving away from Denver to get away from her children’s father, she returned a few years later, only to end up homeless after having to remove her boys from an unsafe daycare center. “It was like going through everything I’d dealt with all over again,” she says. “I wanted to protect them. I couldn’t work because I didn't trust anyone to watch them, so I wasn’t in a position to get a place to live.”
With no one to turn to for help, Terra struggled to find a safe place for her and the boys to live. She remembers sitting in an alley one night, clinging to her children, afraid to fall asleep. “I had to stay in a park once too,” she says. “Being homeless in the summer is difficult ...." One shelter said they were full and the weather wasn’t bad enough. I never thought it was possible to be turned away from a shelter when you’re homeless with kids. Even in the winter, there’s only so much capacity, for families especially. It was bad.”
That’s when Terra found out about the Mission’s STAR Transitional Program. It provides a transitional living environment for families and individuals who are homeless to be able to save money and build toward self-sufficiency. When she joined the program, the oldest of her three boys moved to Florida to live with his grandmother. “My family is taking care of him until I get back on my feet,” Terra says.
But only four short months after Terra started the STAR program, she relapsed back into her drug habits and was dismissed.
“I was still hanging around the wrong people,” she explains, “and I kept making bad choices. But when I realized what it was doing to my kids, I knew I needed to change. I didn’t want to lose them.” Soon she was back at The Crossing, asking for a second chance.
This time, Terra says she broke off the negative relationships which influenced her before. She started taking a relapse prevention class and relentlessly pursued the STAR program goals of stability and accountability. “The support system here is amazing,” she says. “The biggest thing I needed was accountability for the choices I was making, and here, you have to be accountable if you want to stay in the program. Being here has been one of the biggest life-changing things I’ve ever experienced.”
Today, Terra has a job at a distribution center in Aurora where she was recently promoted after starting as a temporary employee just a few months before. She’s talking to her family again for the first time in five years, and her finances are stable and growing. But for Terra, that’s all icing on the cake. “My relationship with my kids is so much better than it used to be,” she says. “We pray together every night, and I pray with them before they go off to school every day. They know I’m okay now and that we’re stable. They’re not afraid of me being in bad relationships anymore. I quit that cycle because I know what I’m worth now. All the classes have been a huge help to me. I’ve been clean and sober for a year, and I’m really excited about that.”
As Terra finishes out her last few months in the STAR program, she’s grateful for all the opportunities and the second chance she's been given. Without the help of the Mission and donors like you, she might still be sitting in an alley, afraid to fall asleep, scared of losing her children, and unsure how to end the cycle of depression and hopelessness. But thanks to your support, Terra and many other families and individuals are given a second chance, reminded that they are loved and mentored on a path toward stability.
Thank you for helping us give families like Terra’s hope every day at Denver Rescue Mission through our transitional programs.
Letter from the CEO
Experiencing homelessness is incredibly hard. For most of us, it is something we could not even begin to imagine. But being homeless with a family may be the most difficult. We have a number of single parents who stay with us at The Crossing—people like Terra, featured in this month’s Changing Lives. Despite the misfortunes or missteps they might have endured or made, they are courageous people, fighting for their families, and really fighting to be able to love and encourage their children to be something more than they are.
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Terra’s story was featured in the June 2017 issue of Changing Lives titled “Worth More.”
Also in this issue:
- 125 Ways to Give Back
- Hit A Home Run Against Hunger
- Letter from the CEO