Melina’s Story

“Your crisis does not define you.”

“I wash my clothes in Gain laundry detergent now. They smell so good and come out of the dryer so soft. I burst with pride over this because I buy that detergent with the money I earn. I drive a new Kia too, complete with car insurance and I shop at the Davie Walmart on Flamingo and Griffin. That’s where I buy the fresh food to cook on my own stove … no more cold food from a can. I have a meaningful job and future plans, and when I go out I return in to the comfort of my own home.

After three years of living on the street, I am part of society again.

My daughters know that I have a thing about smells. Each of my six girls has her own scent and they know why it is important to me that I breathe their smell in.

During the time I was homeless, I lost custody of my girls. I washed my clothes and myself in an Exxon gas station. Restroom soap was my attempt at cleanliness.

It was difficult to ever feel fresh because I slept outside near a bridge and my daily mission was to get high enough to anesthetize my pain. I was skinny and not in a good way. My hair was lifeless and dirty. My index finger and thumb were stained and dry. My nail beds were short and my cuticles were overgrown. I had the telltale look of a crack cocaine user.

Sometimes I cleaned a McDonald’s parking lot and they would give me breakfast for my payment. I also managed prostitutes and took some of their money as my payment. I suppose I was a pimp. I thought of it as looking after the girls.

When I had a little extra money, I would get a room at a drug rehab house and take a real shower there.

Basically, this was my miserable life. I felt like a victim who didn’t deserve anything good.

The turning point for me was the night I was headed back to sleeping under the bridge and some older teens drove by and threw raw eggs at me. I was slathered in sticky raw eggs and cut by eggshell shards. I had nowhere to wash it off. The teens were wailing with laughter and hanging out of the car sunroof as they drove away.

I was in shock.

I began asking myself: How did I get here? How did a loving mom of six girls wind up here? I used to volunteer at their school … I used to have a nice home … I was June Cleaver. How did I go from that to a crack pipe?’ A man looked me while I was in this deep thought and said one word to me that I was ready to hear: persevere.

At that moment I felt very clear. I needed to either make a change or die. I was ready to give up that way of living and recapture the good in me.

I went in to Healthy Start Families, a county funded detox program and cleaned up. I became a certified peer counselor. After all, who better to help others than someone like me who had been there? I work a lot with detoxes and see them go from hopeless to hopeful. I go to court with people, I help them file things and navigate the court system.

I am appreciated. People write me notes and thank me for my help. I provide hope. I also have a full time job working for a health advisory company and my goal is to get my health insurance license.

Best of all I have my girls back. We are a family again. I sleep in a bed with clean sheets and before I leave for work, I have eggs and bacon for breakfast. I love bacon.

My crisis will always be part of me but it no longer defines me.”

Melina’s Treasures

“I don’t carry a purse. Living on the street, you learn how to manage without carrying things around. My money is in my pocket and the car key to my brand new Kia is around my neck.”

2 thoughts on “Melina Markos: Pivotal Moment

  • Melina MarkosOctober 18, 2019 at 7:49 am

    Thank you for taking an interest in hearing a very small glimpse into my journey. I would like to clear up a few things that may have been misunderstood or interpreted between myself and the writer, keep in mind we really only addressed a mere fraction of my life, a small part of a bigger picture.
    With that, The reason I was on the streets was due to my gaining up the courage finally to make a phone call( 2005) for help to get myself and my children away from my violently abusive husband of over 9 years. The next day, after asking for help, I believed the system was coming to provide myself and my children refuge, but this wasn’t the case.

    Instead, the cps and deputy came to tell me to pack up my children 6, 3, and my 2 month old girls. My then 16 year old(who is 31 today) was placed elsewhere and my then 14 year old (shes 29) went to her dad (from my 1st marriage-but he was a former r abuser as well). Details of those- All for another time.
    (My 6th child was not a part of this piece in the journey.)

    Anyway, I was breast feeding a then new born(who is 14 today) one minute then she was gone the next…….

    The officer and worker were taking my babies to theier cars and My then 6 year old(who is 20 today) was crying while holding her then 3 year old (who is 16 today)crying lil sister telling her everything would be okay.

    As they pulled away(all of them crying and putting their little hands in the window from inside the officers car) and me screaming “Please dont take my babies!” from the yard of our complex, I lost all sense of being, its indescribable unless you’ve been there.

    My then husband who was forced to leave me alone-canceled our payments on the rental and within a week my life shattered as I knew it- I was left homeless with nowhere but the streets to turn. (There’s so much more but heres the readers digest version) I begged the courts to help me get sanctuary, but that didn’t happen.

    I became so lost in my pain and grief, severe post partum, loss of my babies, my girls- so much so that I reached for any Vice that numbed me or would provide me a way to kill myself.

    However, God had other plans-I just couldnt see it yet.

    On the streets, crying inside-I starved, stayed dirty for weeks, wandered aimlessly, I succumbed to harder drugs that I never believed I could partake in. I slept in allies, under bridges, wherever I could try to feel safe. One time I was brutally beaten, another time hit with a gun, another choked by a person who robbed me, and so so much more.

    At some point while gaining a strategy for my own survival living on the streets right here in Florida, I began to notice other women I came across who had become a meal or drug ticket to some thug like dudes. These guys would use them to go do unspeakable stuff, take their money and force the girl to do this over and over again without giving them their cut(street term for their share).

    Something in me snapped!!.

    I had had enough of my own abuse, I began building up this inner strength and feelings of my momma bear-it was fueling inside me and I certainly couldn’t stand to watch this happen to these young women. So I approached them and discussed a potentially safer way for us to survive. We agreed that we would stick together and I would do my best to try to keep them safe, get them food, shelter, and together we banded a small group of women so we weren’t as vulnerable to becoming harmed out there as we had been before. It was a give and take situation that worked for us. Yes, this may be hard to stomach for some-all I can say it was up to us to survive this chaos, sadly you werent there and help wasnt coming.

    These courageous broken human beings shared with me their pain, struggles and how they got into this mess and I shared mine. I believe I did a good thing and we were stronger, even for this brief period of time, under such a grotesquely horrible situation.

    Moving forward, against all reason, and many more experiences of strength and hope- I surrendered my life to God and the doors opened up for me to go into recovery treatment for all of my hurts, habits and hangups.( 2007).
    I am grateful to state I have been on my new journey since. I have all of my children back.( that happened in 2008)

    However, the system took a long 3 years trying to adopt them out from under me before getting them home, it had manychallenges, so ask me and ill she how I pushed through,.

    It was alot of hard work rebuilding my life but so worth it.

    Sadly, One of my children was molested in foster care, and we’ve had other bouts with the child welfare system trying to cover that up, but that’s for another conversation.

    Just know we are all healing and life looks promising for us, because we have Jesus!!!

    God gave us a victor!!

    I am a humbly grateful advocate for families.(Notably, I’ve received countless awards for recovery, advocacy, leadership and more) My family are all advocates for others and share their hope and perseverance stories.

    I believe “we all can”, when given or provided something whether it be-a lended hand, training, skills, hope, compassion, help or just to care- etc!

    Together, We can see a person overcome and perservere “Against all odds”, I know I surely did…

    So when you read this very small piece of my journey, please dont get hung-up or stuck on a few of the writers words that may vary from my real journey-see it as a parent and her children who overcame their own personal hell, a woman who fought to get her family reunited.

    Understand from my truth and prospective, I believe-God is capable to be there for you too!!!!


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