Stephanie’s Story

At 15 years old, Stephanie started experimenting with drugs. “My parents never really had that “talk” with my sister and I; they never told us about drugs and all the consequences that come along with them. I don’t blame my parents for that though, it’s just something that wasn’t discussed.” On and off for a few years, Stephanie used different drugs, but at the age of 17 she got herself clean and remained that way until she was 20 years old. However, after sustaining a back injury, Stephanie was prescribed pain medication which eventually led her down a bad path, a path that led to the use of heroin. “Because of my substance abuse and some bad relationship issues, I ended up homeless and without a safe place to call home.” Stephanie’s family wanted to support her but they could no longer enable her. She began spending her days on the street, in emergency shelters, couch surfing, and battling addiction. “I wasn’t living… I was basically just surviving from one day to the next.”

 

Stephanie experienced what so many experiences when living on the streets. “There are so many misconceptions that people have of the homeless. People only see the person, but they don’t know their story. They don’t know the challenges a person is facing or what issues they are battling, whether it is mental illness, substance abuse, trauma, or PTSD. Unfortunately, people are quick to judge without knowing the real story.”

 

Then almost four years ago, Stephanie’s life changed. “I found out I was pregnant and I knew I had to get my life together.” Stephanie admits she wasn’t “perfect” during her pregnancy but did what she needed to do to take care of herself and her baby and when she gave birth, Stephanie was clean. However, four days later, Stephanie lost custody of her baby boy, Devin, and she quickly learned that the systems that are meant to help you, are sometimes working against you. Stephanie began fighting her addiction head-on and getting her life together in order to get her son back. Yet, the social worker assigned to Stephanie’s case made it almost impossible for Stephanie to regain custody, no matter how hard she tried to do the right things. “It was an extremely difficult time. I felt hopeless, I just wanted to give up and die.”

 

Stephanie immediately entered the women and child program at SSTARbirth to get substance abuse treatment. Through this program, Stephanie was hopeful to regain custody of her baby boy. Unfortunately, the system was still working against her and it took Stephanie almost two years before she and Devin would be reunited. But Stephanie kept going and got her life together and on December 23, 2019, just two days before Christmas, she got her baby back. “It was the greatest Christmas gift I ever received,” Stephanie recalls smiling from ear to ear.

 

As their time at SSTARbirth was coming to an end, the anxiety for Stephanie was setting in. “Where will we go now? Will we find a place to call home?”

 

Stephanie didn’t know much about House of Hope but what she did know was positive, so she took the chance and reached out to our Housing Advocate. “The systems were against me before, so I was nervous it would happen again. But Wayne was so helpful and worked with me through all the necessary steps to get me into housing. He then put me in touch with the rest of the Housing Stabilization team, including Breah and Adrianne. Within a few weeks, I received the good news that Devin and I would finally have a place to call home.”

 

On November 30, 2020, Stephanie and Devin transitioned from SSTARbirth to House of Hope’s rapid rehousing program, Rockville Mill, in Hopkinton, Rhode Island. “It’s been such a positive experience here so far. The program is amazing and the staff is so supportive, always there to help no matter what the need.”

 

And Stephanie has a renewed and closer relationship with her parents and sister. “It was difficult for a while because everyone thinks you can just turn your addiction off, that you can just flip a switch and stop. But that’s obviously not the case. My family came to understand that. And now they’re proud of all I’ve overcome and have accomplished. When I reflect at where I was just a few years ago I’m amazed at where I am today and so grateful.”

 

Now Stephanie looks to help those that are experiencing some of the same things she has gone through; ““I’d tell them to just keep going and no matter how difficult things get, to not give up. Reach out and get help. If you stay consistent and persistent, things WILL get better.”

 

Stephanie is hopeful about what the future holds for her and her son. “I have hope now, after feeling hopeless for so long. I have goals and dreams of getting back to work and someday owning my own house. I owe so much to SSTARbirth and House of Hope. They have helped me realize that I can achieve the goals I set for myself. I’m so thankful that I didn’t give up and that everyone at House of Hope CDC believes in me and has given me this chance; a second chance at life.”

 

As we finished up our talk, I asked Stephanie what advice she would give to someone going through a similar situation to what she went through. Stephanie smiled “I’d tell them to just keep going and no matter how difficult things get, don’t give up. Everyone deserves a second chance, especially if they working hard to better their lives. Reach out and get help. If you stay consistent and persistent, things WILL get better.”

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