We’ve had a solid response regarding our assistance with Presbyterian Night Shelter’s Operation Move Out, but we still have some work to do in order to make a house a home for one of Fort Worth’s homeless residents. (Original blog post here)
Melissa Bertrand has never had a home to call her own.
The 44-year-old has never had the chance – until now.
Melissa, who has been homeless on and off since she was a child, came to the Presbyterian Night Shelter about one year ago after being released from prison. Now, Melissa is one of 65 homeless clients participating in the Shelter’s Operation Move Out, a project where PNS is helping 65 homeless move out of the Shelter and into their own homes through funding from the city of Fort Worth’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. The project kicks off in mid-May.
“This will be the first time ever that I will have a place to call mine,” Melissa said. “I am so happy – I’ve been dreaming about this apartment for a long time.”
Melissa, who grew up in Iowa, ran away from home when she was 10 years old because a family member was abusing her. Determined to escape her abuser, she hitchhiked more than 1,000 miles to California.
Because she was too young to work legally, Melissa worked odd jobs such as mowing yards, cleaning houses and working in the fields. When she was 17, she began working as a stripper.
“My life wasn’t great in California,” she said. “I hitchhiked again to Texas a few years later to start again, but it just got worse.”
Melissa, who was 29 when she arrived in the Fort Worth area, was homeless. She began taking drugs and entered into prostitution. For the next 14 years, she lived on the streets and in and out of motel rooms.
“I was addicted to heroin and doing every kind of drug I could get my hands on,” she said. “Everything changed when I went to prison.”
Melissa was arrested in 2007 on burglary, drug and prostitution charges and spent one year in prison.
“I prayed every day I was in there,” she said. “I just asked God to get me off drugs and change my life. And God answered my prayers.”
When she was released in 2008, Melissa came to PNS and met with a case manager who helped her enroll in Project WISH, an eight-week job-preparation and work-placement program at the Shelter. She graduated with an A in the course and moved on to computer courses at the Ladder Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works with shelters and other agencies to teach clients computer skills and how to seek employment. Because of her success, Melissa was offered a part-time job at PNS as part of the Hope, Opportunity and Accountability (HOA) program doing sanitation and janitorial work.
“I’m so glad I came to PNS,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d ever get a second chance nevertheless a job, especially in this economy. I’m so grateful.”
Melissa is now taking classes to earn her GED and wants to become a social worker.
And the question you’re asking yourself right now – “How can I help?”
“I want to be a case manager so I can help people just like they helped me,” she said. “I can definitely say that I know where they’re coming from and I can help them through it.”
• Mattresses, box spring, bed frames (twin size)
• Sheets, pillows and pillow cases (twin size)
• Furniture including chairs, table, couch
– Living Room Chair
– Coffee table
• Toiletry items such as shampoo, soap and toilet paper
• Towels and washcloths
• Cleaning supplies including brooms, mops and cleaning sprays
• Laundry detergent
• Kitchen items such as paper towels, rags, hot pads, measuring cups, etc. (We have a little bit of stuff like this, but we need more)