I left my husband to save my life.
He is an oil executive. For many happy years, we traveled the world for his job. But once we settled down in Houston he became controlling and violent. He wanted a stay-at-home wife. I wanted to continue my career as a model. I had success in Houston and even won a statewide competition.
The abuse escalated to the point where he actually tried to kill me. In 2014 I left him and came to Seattle to stay with a friend. Everything I owned was in a suitcase.
It felt amazing to be free of fear. But I now had other problems to solve, namely homelessness.
My friend lived in the University District and told me about Elizabeth Gregory Home’s (EGH) drop-in Day Center. I first came to EGH to volunteer. I worked at the front desk, which led to a job that EGH helped me land by providing a letter of reference. Eventually, though, I turned to EGH for even more support since my housing situation was so precarious.
My home changed many times in the last four years: from sleeping on my friend’s couch to living in a Salvation Army shelter to sharing an apartment with two other women to staying in a barebones hotel room. I used to come to EGH at least once a month to check in with Michele Martin, the center’s operations manager, access EGH’s clothing closet, and stay connected to my friends there.
I managed pretty well until I lost my job at Nordstrom after the holidays. After that, I found myself back at the University Lutheran Church (ULC), this time spending my nights in the self-managed shelter run by SHARE/WHEEL, which is located in the building with EGH. In the morning, we would smell coffee brewing and sometimes bacon cooking; it was so nice to be able to come upstairs to EGH for breakfast. EGH’s meal program made all the difference to me while I was at the SHARE/WHEEL shelter. Not only did I get a good breakfast, but by also eating lunch there and taking food with me for dinner, I could stretch my food stamps so I didn’t run out in the middle of the month.
EGH also gave me a place to take a shower and wash my clothes. Keeping clean while you’re living in a shelter is difficult; I really appreciate being able to use the shower and laundry facilities at the EGH Day Center.
I know where my life is going now. I have rented a one-bedroom apartment in the International District, thanks to the housing voucher Michele helped me get. My voucher gives me hope that I will never live in a shelter again: It allows me to pay no more than 30% of my income for rent.
Last year I applied for a federal grant for the arts and I got it! This grant will help me start my new career as a writer. I plan to write children’s books, songs, and novels. I will also design clothing and express my creative spirit through interior design.
I also really look forward to cooking again. Michele is taking time to help me get everything I need – pots, pans, and even free furniture. I can select items like new sheets and towels that have been donated to EGH and Michele is contacting donors who have offered furniture and other household items in the past, trying to get me set up in my new apartment.
I didn’t walk a smooth path to this new life. And I will probably run into a few more bumps in the future. But I know that I can always come to EGH for support when I need it. When I publish my first novel I’ll donate some of the profits to EGH because I want them to be there when the next person like me walks through their door, needing help.
[At EGH we see many clients like Juliet who are not chronically homeless, but live on the edge of homelessness. We call this “housing insecurity.” High rents in the Seattle area mean that any financial stumble – like losing a job, in Juliet’s case, or an unexpected medical bill – can put a woman’s housing in jeopardy. EGH continues to work with non-profit and government organizations to increase the number of and access to low-income housing in the Puget Sound area. – Editor.]