St. Francis House Has Been a Blessing

Little Rock native,  ShaLonda Gray, served her country in the Army National Guard from 2007-2010. 

“I graduated High School in 1992 and already had completed a my certification in computer programming from Metro Votech.  I completed three years of college at Philander Smith. But I dropped out to get married and had my son shortly thereafter. I had a daughter in 1996, another son in 2002.  I got divorced in 2006 and joined the Army National Guard. I worked mainly in communications, but we were deployed to help on the border, and we all received MP training at the onset of desert Storm.” 

Between details, Ms. Gray worked in hotels and as a substitute teacher for the Little Rock schools and she continued working in hotels after she left the Guard. She remarried and had three more daughters.

But then, she began experiencing vision loss and headaches. When her ophthalmologist found nothing wrong with her eyes, further testing revealed a brain tumor. Her symptoms worsened and she eventually had surgery in Houston. This began a series of tumor-related health issues. And a tumultuous family life further complicated matters.

“I grew up in a family with multi-generational abuse, alcoholism, and drug use. My grandmother was extremely abusive to my mom, and she was verbally abusive to me. My grandmother eventually cleaned up and became a part of my life and the children’s. Unfortunately, I still have no contact with my mother or my youngest son. She convinced him to help her try to kill me. I still have restraining orders out on them both, though I’m trying to get my son into counseling so we can rebuild our relationship.”

As health issues worsened, so did financial difficulties and further trauma. “My youngest child is a child of rape. She’s amazing and I wouldn’t trade her for anything, but the situation was horrible. Someone I thought was a friend of mine decided he wanted a different type of relationship. He showed up one day, extremely agitated. He became so threatening that my eldest daughter took the younger kids out of the house and called the police. Before they got there, he raped me. Later, he started stalking me and found out about our daughter. He even tried to get custody, saying that my tumor-related symptoms made me unfit to raise a child.”

Since then, Ms. Gray has had another brain surgery and several hospitalizations. She has been back and forth between shelters and housing. And her symptoms have worsened to include memory loss, seizures and strokes. “After my last hospitalization, I went to the Day Treatment Center, and they got me into St. Francis House. It’s been an answer to much prayer all the way around. I’m working with Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) on getting my VA benefits which should be 100% and on housing as well. In fact, I’ve found a place and if the inspection goes well, I’ll be leaving soon. But I’ll continue working with SSVF so I’ll still be in contact with St. Francis House!”

“Praise God for the authentic care, safety, attention and consideration of all of the members of this home for Veterans. St. Francis House gives us the much-needed access to resources for independent or assisted living so we can all live productive lives no matter the family or individual’s needs.