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.”

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