“I have no one to worry about and no one worries about me”

*Story used with permission, details changed at the Veteran’s request

“Sheila” is a Navy Veteran from Colorado. After serving her country as an administrative specialist, she married, had a daughter, and worked as a secretary for over twenty years.  “I was a functioning crack addict. I never missed work; I was able to hold it together. but then a co-worker found my crack tools in my backpack.”

That backpack began Sheila’s journey into homelessness, but it also began her road to recovery. She entered an outpatient recovery program, but the daily groups and drug tests multiple times a week made it impossible to fulfill her work commitments. She lost custody of her daughter, and her daughter was placed with relatives in Arkansas when her ex-husband couldn’t care for her. “I kept relapsing out of grief; I just couldn’t handle it all.”

Sheila realized she needed a residential rehabilitation program, but there were no beds available where she was. She decided to come to Arkansas to be nearer her daughter. “I’ve been through lots of treatment programs, including Fort Root. Sometimes I’d even do well for a while. But every year, when holidays and my daughter’s birthday rolled around, I’d have a meltdown.  One of the relatives adopted my daughter, and even when they invited me for special occasions, I never felt welcome. After a while, I just stopped paying rent. I had no one to worry about, and no one worries about me so why did it matter?”

Sheila was eventually evicted and was referred to Saint Francis House. “Having a place to stay has allowed me to take care of all my health issues- PTSD, addiction, dental problems, arthritis. But I’ve been sober since October, and I’m building a support system to support my sobriety. Thanks to Pets for Vets, I have a service dog and a cat that are my lifelines. I’ve applied to several apartments, and I’m hoping to mend the relationship with my daughter.”