As I was getting ready to leave for the evening, one of the ladies at the Helen Wright Center had shared with me that her day planner had “disappeared” and it was hard to keep up with appointments and chores. I asked her name and told her that I would see if I could find one, that I thought maybe I had an extra. She gave a bit of a shocked smile that I would offer something, but then it was my turn to be shocked. She replied,”I am number 12″.This sad young woman, one of thirty six residents at the center, struggling so hard to get back on their feet, reduced to a number. I managed a weak smile and said that I refuse to call her that and wanted at least to have a first name. With a smile on her face she shared her name. Before I left for the evening, we talked a bit more about how she was NOT just a number and that she is in transition! Women at Helen Wright Center sign a contract and each day,are working away from homelessness. They are not just sheltered and fed – they are working toward the process of going to a home of their own. That new place may only be a one room apartment, but while at the Helen Wright center for up to two months, they apply for jobs if they don’t have one, budget their money, take classes on life skills,and access any available programs to help them back into the main stream and away from homelessness.
I was super grateful to go home that night, to a room I share with myself (not 35 others), put my clothes in a closet, not a locker, not have to sign up for my turn to take a shower,wash my clothes when I want to, not when it is my bunk number assigned time, eat whatever I choose, not what volunteers bring in for meals. This experience has helped me to realize that we are all only a few paces from homelessness. Around 300 women a year are served at the Helen Wright Center for Women and there is always a waiting list.