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Jennifer
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Jennifer

I had a rough childhood growing up in the Bronx. My parents were both drug addicts, they were there but not mentally so I spent most of the time with my older sister who dropped out of school to raise me. I was a selective mute choosing not to speak until I was five or six.

I didn’t like the atmosphere around me and I sensed things weren’t right. This made me a very lonely child and at 10 years of age it dawned on me that I had to fend for myself so at that very early age I found a job packing bags.

I was never incarcerated but I had a lot of close calls and it was a pretty big scare that finally stopped me from doing bad things. I still remember the day I was selling drugs at the park and something told me to leave, moments later the cops stormed in and arrested everyone in the park and I had just gotten away in time. I had so many drugs on me that day that I would have been put away for the rest of my life. It was a wake-up call but I was 19 and I was still in self-destructive mode so nothing meant anything to me.

I did stop selling drugs but I was fighting the whole time, that was just part of being a gang member and it was only when I got pregnant with my son that I decided to put a stop to that way of life and I went to a pregnancy shelter. They skipped me all over the place until I got section 8 and was able to live in my own apartment for a while.

I adopted my middle child after I was dating her father but he became abusive so I ran to a domestic violence shelter and stayed there for a long while.

When he found out that I was pregnant with my current husband he was furious and managed to find me but they ended up arresting him. It was then that Providence house took me in.

I’m not where I used to be, I’m not where I want to be but I’m better than where I was. I came here with nothing and now I have everything.

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Beverly
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Beverly

My name is Beverly Jackson, I grew up in Australia, Queens. When I was young I was active but very shy. I was on the gymnastics and track team at High School, I was also a cheer leader.

I was one of nine children and the only one to graduate followed by two years in college.

Life takes a toll on you though and as you get older you tend to do things differently and I fell into the world of drug life which got me incarcerated. I took the rap for another person and I did five years in jail.

In December 2013 during the last year of incarceration I found out that I had breast cancer, I didn’t want to accept it at first but I had to. I was allowed out to the hospitals and I knew that I wanted to live so I had to take all the precautions.

In the process I lost all my hair and my nails but it never got my spirit down, I kept smiling. I went to chemotherapy on my own then I had major surgery done, now I have to go through radiation, I think it’s really bothering me because I haven’t slept in five days and I’ve been very sick. Some days I don’t feel like doing anything, some days it’s hard.

I have to remember that I’ve got God on my side, I know that I can do this. I’ve got just one more step to go and that’s the radiation. I just don’t want to be sick again, I don’t want to feel any pain but I’m going to be fine, I’m a fighter and I can do this, then you can come back and check on me to make sure. I wasn’t scared in prison, I knew I was going to find myself and find God.

I joined the choir and made posters for the church, I was singing and praising God, that was my main priority.

When I came out I looked for a church to sing at, I’ve found one and I’m going to sing for the first time tomorrow, I can’t wait.

I found out about Providence House inside when I was in the work release program, my counselor let me come because it was near the hospitals for all my appointments.

I love the Sisters at Providence House they are like my mentors, they are beautiful. Just by listening to them gave me hope and it gave me the will to live, I can’t get enough of them. They are always there for me with so much energy.

I have a curfew because I’m on parole but I don’t like staying out of the house long anyway, when I go to the store I like to bring the sisters back little treats and I like to create a comradery with the other guests at the house, if I have something to give to help, I will.

My door is always open and I’m grateful that I have a roof over my head. Here I get to shower, I get to eat, I get to lay my head 7 days a week. I am so grateful because I could be somewhere else much worse seeing my situation.

At night I leave my door open until I see Sister Marie go to her room, once I know she’s there I close my door.

I’ve always been a very creative person, I make things with my hands, I’m a cartoonist, I do Birthday cards and I draw on glass, when all is said and done I want to open up my own art and crafts store with my name on it.

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Yolanda
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Yolanda

I was an only child with a very loving mother, but at 7 years old I was separated from her when she was taken into a Psychiatric Hospital, that’s when all my problems began.

I was placed into an unprotected environment at my grandmother’s house where I couldn’t talk to anyone so I wrote a lot, I wrote everything down and school became my refuge. In that house I was molested and abused but I couldn’t tell my mother these things because she was trying to get better and it would have destroyed her.

I was so happy when my mom was released from the Psychiatric Ward and got an apartment in the Bronx. She really tried but it only lasted a few months until she couldn’t take care of me anymore so I had to take care of myself. She would just stare out of the window until one day I just had to call my grandmother.

I was very good at school, I earned a diploma and went to college but as I grew older I used to fall into very deep depressions, as I had nobody to talk to I learnt how to come out of them by myself.

I had my daughter at 20 years old, she was my whole life so I tried to treat her like my mother had with me but then things started to fall apart and I couldn’t take care of myself. My daughter’s father was the flashy guy on the block doing drugs. We were together for 12 years but he didn’t want to change, he wasn’t interested in a career and he didn’t care about me or my daughter.

In 2002 I was laid off of work and then there wasn’t any money. My husband was selling PCP (Angel Dust), which he would keep in the fridge.

I was clinically depressed and on top of that instead of searching for help my husband let me take PCP which magnifies your state of being, so if you’re depressed you just go down. One day I smoked it and 2 people got hurt, one fatally. It was a shock to everyone, the doctors called it a psychotic episode, I never knew what happened.

I woke up hand cuffed to a hospital bed wearing a gown with blood stains on it, I looked around and the only thing I could think of was that I’d had a fight with my husband. I couldn’t remember anything and then at the foot of the bed I saw a copy of the Daily News, the front cover had a picture of me on it, that’s how I found out what happened. I remember going numb seeing that really big picture with the title “Mom high on PCP kills her daughter and almost kills best friend”. I saw the picture of me and my daughter on the front cover and I read about a paragraph.

Nobody was a target at the house that day, it could have been anyone, my mother or the mail man. My best friend in the article said that wasn’t me, she was clinging onto her life but saying the most amazing things about me “I love her, something was wrong” speaking so highly even though I’d almost killed her. Nobody in the neighborhood had a bad word to say about me either, they all knew that I loved my daughter. That person wasn’t me.

I was in a Prison Hospital Psychiatric Ward on suicide watch for the longest time. I didn’t want to live, I couldn’t without my daughter. At first I blamed everyone else but then I took responsibility for the choices I had made and that’s when the healing started to take place. I went to Elmhurst Hospital, I had been stigmatized as the baby killer but nobody mentioned that there.

When I just wanted to give up there were so many hands reaching out. I was loved back to life. I couldn’t even eat and there were officers who would spoon feed me, while I was trying to starve myself to death they would sing to me. I always compare myself to a flower that was completely dead but all that love gave me hope. It was amazing to me, I’d be in bed and feel somebody rub my hand and put a cover on me and I’d think “God why?” Even when I got to Riker’s Island Prison my officer would come and read to me. It was those little things, I don’t want to turn this into a spiritual thing but God was saying I love you and I grabbed onto the hand.

I was incarcerated for 13 years. 

I heard about Providence House a couple of months before my release. I remember my first thought walking through the door was “this is a home”. Everyone was so welcoming and I fell in love with the place from the first day.

It was beautiful, I got so close to the Sisters, they’re so attentive. I know I have to leave when I get a better job, though I never want to. I’ll always come back and sit on the porch and help with the garden.

 

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Malika
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Malikah

My earliest memory is when I was four, my aunt and grandmother came to the shelter where I was living with my mother and two younger siblings, my mom was always running the streets, she was a crack addict. I remember that day they took us away and my mom never came back, so my aunt and grandmother raised us out in the Astoria projects. I had a pretty decent childhood while my grandmother was alive, we didn’t struggle much even though we lived in the projects, but that ended for me when she passed away, I was nearly 14 and that is when I started to run the streets and stuff like that.

When my brother and sister were young and needed things from the store I got into the mentality that I had to provide so I started selling drugs at a young age. I was around 14 when I went away to Juvi*. I had gone to jail for selling heroine to a cop, they had me in the 83rd precinct for so many hours, it wasn’t cozy but you never know what you are capable of until you’re put through it. Things got hard for a young girl just starting to understand things.

I got sentenced to 18 months.

While I was in prison my older cousin, who taught me everything I know about basketball, got himself killed. We were like brother and sister but they wouldn’t allow me to go to the funeral.

When I got out I still sold a lot of drugs and did what I had to do to survive by any means. I did a lot of things in my life but I never went back to jail for a drug charge because I was more aware of my surroundings.

I started finding my life and my sexuality and things like that. My first girlfriend was younger than me, I was 17 and she was 14 so I was like a parent partner. I sold drugs for us to stay in our first apartment, it was like living in a movie and I remember it all like it was yesterday.

In 2013 I wound up getting my first prison bid upstate for arson, that’s where I got a rude awakening. I remember I was up there getting fitted for clothes and I saw a woman whose number on her prison suit was 99 and I thought shit it’s 2013 she’s been here all that time. In the 12 months that I spent on that prison ground I met numerous women who are never coming home, women that are never going to see freedom again. Witnessing that really woke me up.

You are stripped of your freedom everything is about someone telling you what to do, how you do it and when. I have to say that I met a lot of decent women in prison. I did my whole bid with one female who I was actually in a relationship with, we weren’t supposed to be but we were. She was what helped me focus and kept me out of trouble.

I’ve been back in New York for a year now, I have family here and I came because I wanted a baby but unfortunately it didn’t work out, it’s not uncommon for a woman to have a miscarriage the first time.

I went into the shelter on Williams Avenue, it’s not the best place in the world and I got into a situation with a female and wound up getting arrested.

The Bellfront agency and my uncle helped bail me out. Derek an employee from Bellfront came and picked me up in the pouring rain and he brought me to Providence house. I was a little nervous and afraid at first but I remember feeling welcomed. I have a lot of anger issues, I’m not a very sociable person so I don’t always get along with everybody but the people here have been more than patient and supportive of everything I try to do, they have been amazing to me like a family. It sets your soul at a certain pace and gives you a little bit of hope when you are back out there in the world. I talk to Sister Pat a lot, she’s so funny and Sister Mary makes sure I get some coffee, Sherrie the house manager has always fought for me, something I never had before. It was always me out there fighting and struggling, so to have somebody show you they care and want to see you prosper in life, that’s a good feeling.

School is my main focus at the moment, I really want to study to be a vet and I hope my experience empowers other women. There is no going back now, I’ve come too far.

*Juvenile Detention Center

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Lisa
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Lisa

I was born and raised in New York on 103rd Street and 3rd Avenue in Spanish Harlem, it’s known as the projects. I was the oldest sibling and a tomboy, I still am.

My first experience with drugs was when I was about 15 or 16, mom was always working and my dad had left. I was hanging out with friends and I didn’t want to go to school anymore so we had parties at my house and I would make out with other Women, smoke cigarettes and pot, then it escalated. One time I was cleaning my mom’s house and I came across a blue jar with cocaine in it, I didn’t know what it was but I got curious of course and dipped my finger in it. I went crazy abusing that stuff, I couldn’t stop and ended up with a craving. Soon I began stealing for it and selling drugs. Mom was doing it so I thought it was okay at the time, she was having parties every weekend so it was like a normal thing in our house.

I was doing cocaine for about eight years, when you’ve been sniffing for so long it just hurts your nose and doesn’t do anything to you anymore. Then I turned to smoking crack, I happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people, that very first hit all I heard was bells and I started dancing and singing. Next instead of buying cocaine, I was buying crack and it was purer than cocaine and much cheaper, just two-dollar bottles, all you needed was a glass stem and some kind of wire stuff. It got crazy for a while, I met people I didn’t know, I’d go to their house, smoke, then on to the next house.

I wasn’t working and I started sleeping in hallways, stairwells and on roof tops. My mother and sister soon cut me out and I was lost for a very long time, I became so thin that I looked like a walking skeleton. One day I got tired of just being tired and that’s when I said “I need help.” A friend introduced me to this guy who gave me a phone and some drugs, all I had to do was deliver. I did that for 8 long years, fortunately I didn’t have a record so the first time I got arrested I didn’t go to jail, but it shook me up.

In 2012 though I was set up and did 10 months in jail. I did get support at Rikers, my mom and sister would visit and I survived by just being quiet staying out of trouble, it wasn’t easy. I only had one friend in prison, this smart girl who was my bunky, she was in for selling drugs too. She was attracted to me even though she’d never been with a woman before and we stayed in contact for a short time after.

While I was incarcerated I learnt about Providence House and it sounded so nice. When I got out I went straight to PH5, the sisters were so nice and the food was good. They welcomed me with open arms and were very attentive, at night we would have dinners and talk, it was the happiest moment. Just them being there by my side listening to me, watching me cry confused and angry, pretty much made me a better person.

I started going to school for carpentry, I knew I didn’t want to go back to that misery and now I have my own place with money in my pocket, before I didn’t have shit and it’s just about choices.

I said Lisa what do you want to do, you wanna continue being homeless and miserable?

Now I feel more, I care more.

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Nora
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Nora

At the age of six when my parents split up I went to live with my grandmother. I had to get responsible and look after my brother. I’d witnessed a lot of things between my parents and when I was young an uncle molested me, I was raped, my father drew a shot gun out on my mom. There was a lot of stuff happening but we were told not to speak about it outside of the house so I had to act as if everything was normal.

At middle school I started to get in some trouble. It was around the same time that my favorite uncle Thomas got killed which was very traumatic for me, he was the one who taught me how to fight and protect myself, he was in the army.

In ninth grade I was dating this guy, I didn’t know he was abusive. One day he tried to leave me for dead. I was in hospital for two weeks my face was messed up and I still have some of those scars.

When I moved to New York city it was so exciting but I was young and naïve. For a while I was in Long Island staying with a rich Russian guy. I was real pretty then with long hair and a nice shape, he had this big house and threw crazy pool parties. I was smoking crack and to pay for it I was stealing and selling myself. The older men would give me 100 bucks for XYZ and I degraded myself.

One day I called my grandmother and said I wanted to come home and I went into long-term rehab. I kept falling back into drugs and rehab because of the traumatic experiences I’d had when I was young.

I’ve been imprisoned for contempt to sell drugs, possession of drugs and prostitution. The first time was for one and a half years it was scary, you had to fight to defend yourself but I survived. The second time was for two years, the third was 3 ½ to 5 for assaults in the second degree. It was domestic stuff the person was abusing me verbally, physically and mentally, one day I got tired of it and lashed out. My last one was 2 to 4 years so I was in and out of my children’s lives.

In jail you have to realize that there are people from all walks of life, it’s hard to trust because lots of people are conniving to get over you.

Just before leaving my last bid in December 2016 I wrote to Providence house asking for an opportunity, I had nowhere to go. The first night I saw how nice everything was and fell in love with the big kitchen, I could come down and cook whenever I liked. I’m grateful to Providence house for opening their doors to me, I smoke cigarettes and curse a little too much but they still pray for me.

I get to visit my family and my four boys who are all doing good and I’m going to school too to get my GED.

I turned to drugs to run away from the pain, the disappointment, the things that were inflicted on me that I didn’t want. Today I know that I don’t have to tolerate anything, I’m getting older and I know that I don’t want to be homeless any more, I don’t want to be selling my body, I want better for myself, I deserve it.

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Johaniazia
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Johniazia

The truth is, I don’t really know where I was born. I had a bouncy childhood too, I lived all over the place, Harlem, Georgia, Bermuda, New Jersey and as long as I can remember I had to defend myself so I’ve never been a child really. When I was in third grade my mom worked the nightshift so my older brother was left in charge but often he would go out.

I dozed off one night on the couch and woke up with stinging eyes finding the whole house was full of smoke (at school they had taught us what to do in case of fire after a girl called Maria had died because she’d hidden under the bed when she saw the flames) I went towards my baby brother thinking I’ve got to get him out, I can’t leave him just like Maria. I jumped over the chairs through the kitchen over the fire into my brother’s room then jumped back across holding on to him. Then I went to the other bedroom to wake up my other brother who has cerebral palsy, I was screaming for him to wake up. I remember just going out and closing the door behind me thinking, now what?

We were scooped up by a neighbor and then the fire trucks arrived, I was seven years old.

I never had problems at school it was my escape from home and I actually despised Christmas holidays and breaks. My teenage years were even rougher than my childhood, I was 12 when we moved back to New York and I was on a risky path. At 14 I ran away, I didn’t want to be my mum’s house slave anymore or a built-in babysitter and I was ready to go, so I left. I was gone for eight days without going to school, I stayed with my mom’s best friend which ended up ruining their relationship. At 16 I moved out for good, it was the best and worst thing I ever did. A year later I was living with the father of my daughter but things got bad and I left to go into a domestic violence center.

When I first got to Providence house I was pissed, I sat on the steps with my baby daughter in the snow because for legal reasons they couldn’t take me in but finally they did.

I’m the kind of person who never gets angry on the outside but inside I could be planning your demise. I’m on guard with every single thing but I don’t want to be this way, I just want to be able to let people in, love and be loved.

Having a daughter has changed me, I’ve been on the crappy end of parenting so I want to make sure she never feels like I did. I want to have a healthy relationship and make sure she never goes through anything I went through with my mum.

Over the years there have been so many things that have been aimed at me sending me rock bottom but I’ve always managed to overcome, things that other people would have committed suicide over.

Now with my husband we are able to co-parent for the good of my daughter. She was born with five cysts on her brain, she’s had surgery four times and suffers from diabetes along with several neurological issues but my daughter is here, she’s strong.

Homeless doesn’t mean dirty, homeless doesn’t mean cracked out. In my instance homeless means domestic violence finally had enough. This is where I am to get on my feet, I’m not ashamed of my situation because all of this is temporary.

At school I was good at writing and that’s what I still do today. I write everything I do, it’s the only way to vent. I have loads of note books full of notes from my life which I use in my songs. I’m not a singer I rap! So when I need some lyrics I go through my notes but I don’t write about my past or problems, I want to give off good vibes in my songs.

I was immediately welcomed and embraced here as a woman going through trials in life. They do their best to make sure you don’t feel down on yourself because of your circumstances. It’s a family-based environment and it feels like home.

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Blessing
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Blessing

I was born in Nigeria. When my mum and dad separated, he left the house so I went and stayed with him and my step mom in Edu, they stopped sending me to school when I was 10 years old to save money.

It was very tough growing up without my mother. My stepmom was not friendly at all, she would tell me to do all the house chores and I did them because I didn’t want her to flog me.

When I was a teenager I used to run away from home because of the maltreatment. I would go to my friend’s house but every time they would bring me back and flog me.

My real mom was in London trying to make money to send us but the money never came. All my sisters were scattered around other families so the love wasn’t there and growing up was Hell.

I started to get sick and for this reason people at school started avoiding me, I was getting asthma and often they would have to rush me to the hospital at night.

I used to see my step mom travel to America with her children but she always left me behind at the airport even though I spent my life looking after my stepsisters.

When I got pregnant with Emma the doctors told me that I risked dying with the pregnancy, my grandmother wanted me to be circumcised again to have the child even though I was already circumcised as a baby, luckily my mom stood up for me and took me away, she told me that in America there were good doctors. I was 27 when she bought me a ticket and told me that my auntie was waiting for me in Texas. Soon after I arrived I called a friend in New York asking for help and she said come. Emma was one month when we arrived but soon this person drove me out of the house.

A lady at the church told me to go to the shelter but I was scared they would send me back to Nigeria but I decided to go. The first shelter I went to was terrible it wasn’t like here, it was hell.

I prayed every day to be independent and have a house of my own. At Providence House I feel like I’m starting a new life, a good life with my daughter and I’d love to go back to school and learn to read to become a nurse.

I’ve got this far and every time I look at my daughter I think that I don’t want her to have the kind of life I’ve had. She gives me strength!

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Shellyann
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Shellyann

I was born in the Bronx, NY but I was adopted at an early age into a family with three older sisters. From my biological mother there were seven of us and the mom that raised me took me to meet all of my family so even though we were separated I knew where I came from.

Later my biological mother tried to get me back but she lost the case in court and I was able to stay with a good family who raised me with love.

Years later when my sisters moved out I was left alone to look after my mother who was half paralyzed and then I got pregnant. I went through a rough patch doing all the wrong things, I didn’t have that stabilization at home to keep me doing good, I was running the streets mostly.

At 17 I moved out and got my first apartment but there was a fire and it burnt down. My next house was always full of people coming in and out all day lying around playing cards, drinking and smoking. I didn’t think it was wrong at the time but it is one thing I would change from my past, children should grow up in homes with a healthy and peaceful environment.

The hardest thing for me in life was losing my child, I’ve grown to live with it but it’s not easy you just learn how to cope with the pain. With her passing I became an alcoholic, I was hurting myself and everyone who loved me. I drank heavily for 10 years losing everything along the way. I used to sleep in a tent in the park and sometimes I’d wake up in the morning so hung over and wonder what I’d done the day before, that was scary.

One day I found out that I was pregnant and I never touched another drop, something that I thought I could never do. My sister helped me for a while but I was forced to go into a homeless shelter.

When I got transferred to Providence House I was crying hysterically, I was so scared and emotional but the Sisters consoled me. They’ve taught me to be patient and not to get depressed for things that are out of my control, they are so soft-spoken and they don’t have a mean bone in them. Being here has made me appreciate life.

Now I clean wealthy people’s homes, they love me and my boss said he may promote me to be a trainer. I want to go back to school so I can have my own company one day, that’s my goal. I don’t know what I’ll call it but it will be something inviting that shows love and trust.

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Sushana
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Sushana

I’m from Kingston, Jamaica and I’ve been in the States for eight and a half years. I was in a marching band until age 18, my mom was a member of a drum core and I was the signature leader. I always wanted to come to America and the first time I visited was with the marching band.

When I immigrated here I was very sad because I had to leave my one-year-old child in Jamaica but I came to make a better life for myself, my kids and my family.

At the beginning I was staying in Boston but then I came to New York working in a nursing home and also in a hair dresser’s. I was sending my money to Jamaica to take care of my child, my mother, grandfather and my stepfather who was always there for me.

When I stopped working I lost my apartment and had to move into a shelter. That was very hard but life in the shelter is better than out in the streets for sure. The first shelter was in long Island City then I got transferred to Providence House.

The two hardest times for me were when my brother passed away and then my grandmother. I couldn’t go back to Jamaica to attend the funerals because I’m not a resident yet, for the same reason I can’t return to see my son who is 10 years old now, we communicate every day and he gets to see his brother here over the computer.

I’ve been at Providence House for six months, the staff are really great and I get along with the other women too, I like to socialize and try to make the best of it here.

My focus is to get an apartment and make myself a better person for both my kids and myself. I am in school now and I see myself becoming a nurse or a CAN (Certified Nursing Assistant).

I want to stay in America but I have to remember where I come from, I can’t throw a stone behind me.

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Rosalie
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Rosalie

I stopped feeling like a child early on but you sit with your past and you deal with it for the good, bad and the ugly. There’s a lot of sadness from my past but I’m resilient.   My mother was in and out of our lives and then she finally just left, she was into her own needs, people marry too young sometimes and that’s what happens.

I was a shy girl and I got into abusive relationships, I’m a firm believer that an abuser picks his victim he doesn’t want a strong woman but someone he can rule over. The person I was back then was broken and shattered and I allowed someone to make me feel really bad about myself.

I was 42 when I went to prison, I survived for 27 years inside but I’m not bitter about it and I’m very accepting of things because I’m a survivor not a victim. I did time with so many women, I saw them grow mentally and physically becoming the women they were. I loved seeing the comradery between the women, it’s an interesting dynamic that comes in to play with some doing 70 to life with no parole and I thought well if they can do it so can I. They accept the responsibility and build a life for themselves inside, it’s what the public doesn’t see, they see a crime and sensationalism but there are other human components that go along with a woman’s suffering.

Inside I worked for sister Elaine who started Providence house, she was a bright light in there. I finished my GED in Bedford Dunn. I found a way to survive in the community, it’s dysfunctional but even families are dysfunctional. I graduated in ’94 with my BA degree then I decided to get my masters, I learnt how to apply for a grant and got my MA in 2001 but they don’t prepare you for life outside.

Getting out of prison was a wonderful thing, you live for it. I used to be so excited to see women leave, win appeals and clemencies, I knew that one day I would be walking through those gates and I did. While I was walking out, the four ladies who I had done a lot of time with sat there and it was a heartbreaking moment to leave them behind, other women were screaming and when I walked out the front door the officer hugged me. It was like in the movies, one moment you’re behind bars and the next you are out in another dimension, jumping into a car and driving away. I was very excited, humbled and grateful.

My first stop was at Costco and then the Apple Store, I called sister Elaine and the next thing I knew I was driving down to Providence house by the beach in Coney Island.

I still carry my victim with me and I take it very seriously, I’ll be 71 soon and like me I know that everyone has something in their past. You have to look at it, deal with it and move ahead, you have permission to move ahead.

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Delores
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Delores

My earliest memory is going to the pool when I was a kid and I loved playing baseball. Growing up in our house was mostly very dull, everything was just days in and out, I used to clean, pick up my siblings from school and nothing exciting ever broke the routine. Look, life happens.

I came to New York when I was 21 and I had my daughter but life in New York changed nothing for me, it was just like living in Savanah Georgia.

We were having problems in the family, you know it’s hard living with somebody... so me and my daughter had to find somewhere else to go. When we came in to Providence House they really helped me. I love this place, they should have more of them for people that are having it rough in life.

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Antone
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Antone

I’m from Brooklyn New York. I’m an only child but I had a lot of cousins so it didn’t feel that way growing up. In grandma’s house on summer vacations we’d be 15 in the living room sleeping, especially on the weekends and we loved it.

Being an only child, my mom always kept me under her wing so even today I still feel like a kid, she’s always been very supportive.

My parents had been together since their teens so I think they just outgrew each other and my mom ended up leaving my dad. I was nine years old when I moved out with my mom into a shelter but I never realized anything was wrong, she was good at hiding everything that was going on and I appreciate that now. Kids don’t need to know everything, we should take care of business and let children be children, that’s what makes her such a cool parent. She still hides things from me because she doesn’t want to worry me.

When we arrived at Providence House it was full of children and it was exciting to me, I never had a problem, it felt like home. Eventually we got permanent housing at Providence House in Park Slope. They loved my mother’s spirit and offered her an opportunity to be a permanent resident but later they sold the house and we relocated to the D’Addario residence in Bedstuy. I loved it from the beginning, for the first time I had my own space with my son, it was a great start. I have my own room which is something I have always wanted.

In the future I just want to be the best parent I can be. It’s all about my son, it’s his turn.

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Shanequa
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Shanequa

My earliest memory was hiding my milk bottle in between the middle section of the couch when they were trying to wean me off it. I was four the last time I saw my older sister and I had to start doing everything by myself and raise my two younger brothers like I was their mom even though I’m only four years older than them. In my head I was always an adult, it never occurred to me that I was a kid.

I was in foster care from the age of 7 until 21, when I aged out I lived with my brothers and biological mother again but she was a schizophrenic with all types of delusions and was in a constant battle. She wanted to win my love but hated me at the same time because I looked like her but I represented everything she wasn’t. She succeeded in kicking us out of the apartment so I went back to my foster mum.

When I was graduating a friend asked me to take a pregnancy test with her, she was scared and I said ok but then hers was negative and mine was positive, when my foster mother found out I was pregnant she didn’t want me back in the house, she had high expectations for me so I had disappointed her and she considered that a failure, in her eyes I had let her down. She told me on a Friday that I had to be out on Monday but I had nowhere to go, the father of my child just disappeared but luckily on the Tuesday my best friend picked me up and I moved in with her for a while.

Later I moved in with other friends but ended up being a full-time babysitter for them, cooking, cleaning like a live-in nanny. When my friend’s boyfriend got out of prison though he wanted me out of the house and boom I was homeless, it was December, I had nowhere to go so I went to social services in the state of New York. For the first two weeks I had a place to sleep but I had to be out in the cold for the rest of the day with my baby daughter, I had no money just a duffle bag of clothes and groceries for my child to eat, she knew nothing except that we were on the bus a lot. At this point I didn’t know what to do, I just gave up and as a last resort I went to ask for help to the people who handled my case in foster care where some heads of the department finally considered my case and within an hour they sent me to Providence House. It was Christmas Eve and on Christmas day my daughter got to open presents.

Providence house is a much better environment than any of the numerous places I’ve been to, it’s actually a house and not an institution, there are no cells and no bars.   I’m about to graduate from school again and I’ve found a job.

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Halisha
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Halisha

I was raised by my grandparents in a quiet country setting of Pennsylvania. My grandfather used old sayings like “that red thing in your mouth will get you in trouble, so watch how you speak to people”.

I had my first child at 21 when I was in my prime, I should have been partying but she was a blessing and it made me responsible. 14 years later I had my first son who was born on the same day as my daughter, I remember my water broke just after we’d celebrated her birthday and she ended up taking me to the urgent care.

I got pregnant with my son just a couple of months after meeting his dad and that was the problem, we didn’t have time to learn about each other and I soon found myself in a domestic violence relationship.

He is a Muslim and I converted over to the Muslim faith so I was covered up, before then I was a Baptist, my grandfather was a deacon at the church. I was very depressed just feeling down and sad about myself and I didn’t want anything from life so covering up was not even a problem for me because I felt so ashamed of myself. I did that for four years.

My husband would continuously put me down, he was very possessive and controlling saying “this is my stuff and what I buy is mine”. My breaking point was when he wanted me to sleep on the floor and not in the bed, he continued saying “everything is mine, get a job, I pay for everything”. I was tired of that and one day I started praying to the lord, not to Allah. I prayed every day and he brought me here to Brooklyn with nothing but a bag, a stroller and the two kids.

I finally uncovered and I’m finding myself now, regaining who I am and taking my life back. The strangest thing for me here was riding the subway, I’d only ever travelled in a car out in the mountains.

I’ve always wanted to provide for myself and at last I got hired, it’s a job in the city which I start on Monday. I’m also looking into going back to school, I think I’d like to train to be an ultrasound technician and someday relocate to be near my daughter.

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Debbie
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Debbie

I’m a true New Yorker, born and raised in the Bronx by the Yankees stadium. My mom had six children, three boys and three girls, she raised us by herself because my father was never around. I grew up in a great neighborhood where everybody looked after each other, within a five-block radius we knew everyone.

In tenth grade I dropped out of high school, I wasn’t a good reader and I didn’t really know math that much, I wanted to be a registered nurse but I realized that wasn’t going to happen.

When I was 17 I went to culinary school, that was my best life experience which got me work at a restaurant as a line cook, that’s where I met my ex-husband in 1997. Two years later I got pregnant with my first son.

When I found out that my mum died I just couldn’t cope, it took a big chunk from my heart, we were really close. At that time my husband told me to quit my job, we would get married and move back down to Virginia with the promise that he would take care of me, I had no idea what his real plans were, he basically threw me to the dogs.

People shouldn’t allow anyone to mentally or physically abused them, it is hard for any woman to have to go through that and to pick themselves back up.

I ended up in a shelter and stayed there for 2 ½ years, I was alone and I had to fend for myself, you had to be back at a certain time or someone would take your bed, someone was already stealing my clothes, they probably needed them more than I did. I started smoking to ease my pain.

At one point I punched one of the house staff in the face for holding on to my medication, that’s when they transferred me to another shelter. I didn’t want to be there, I mean who wants to be in line for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

I suffer from seizures, especially if I get upset and sometimes I bite my tongue in my sleep so I go in and out of hospital. My husband used that against me and that’s the reason my son lives with him. He is 18 now, we used to be close but recently he only calls when he needs something, I used to cry over it.

In 2014 I got my first home which is here at Providence House. We have Christmas parties, Thanksgiving dinners, we go on outings to the movies, bowling and if I need anything I go to the case manager, coffee time is a good time to talk.

Physical and mental abuse are both serious issues but I can say that when you are mentally abused you can literally go crazy and instead of being here talking to you today I could have been in hospital. Thankfully I’m living the life that I really want.

Providence house serves to transition women who are homeless and recently released from incarceration back into society. The organization is not institutional but run by the religious Sisters who founded and still perform many of the essential duties within the houses around New York.

The women at these houses are in an exceptionally volatile moment of their lives, most having just left prison, some having served long sentences, others victims of domestic violence and homelessness. This is a temporary safe haven for the women here, in that short time they are guided to find the means to overcome their fragile state of being acquiring the tools to face the hostile and uncertain future beyond the boundaries of the house.

The stories they told of their pasts were often harrowing and upsetting but their hope for a better future was a common thread.

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Women Of Providence House

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