Don’t you just love it when the weather gets cooler, ushering in the holiday season? It lifts our spirits to see colored lights on houses, attend ugly sweater parties, and listen to happy songs about roasting chestnuts. But it doesn’t feel that way for everyone.
This ‘most wonderful time of the year’ can be a painful maze to navigate for people who are experiencing homelessness, have lost a loved one, are fighting for custody of their children, or are struggling to stay sober. Each holiday tradition has the potential to either make us smile at happy memories, or reflect on how our current situation isn’t all that we wished it would be.
One Friday evening a few weeks ago, Derick arrived for substance abuse treatment, for the second time. He came directly from medically assisted detox. After serving in the U.S. Army, Derick lost connection with his only family member through hard times with his addiction to opiates, so this year, he will spend the holidays with his Harvest House family. Derick told his case manager recently, “For the first time, I finally figured out that I belong.”
Marianne was a victim of trafficking since she was 12. By the age of 13, she was addicted to opiates and cocaine, by 14 she had a child from one of her abusers, and at 17 she was charged with multiple felonies for attacking her abuser. Marianne arrived at Harvest House in May for help with her addictions and to complete the remainder of her jail sentence. Today, she is looking forward to her first sober holiday party where our family comes together to watch football, sing karaoke, play games, and exchange gifts. “I used to hate myself more than anyone that ever hurt me, but I’m working on forgiveness for myself and my abusers. Thanks to my new family, I now know the importance of never losing hope.”
Back in July, 22-year-old Sasha landed in our emergency shelter after fleeing a domestic violence situation. Her mom had recently passed due to chronic health issues, leaving this young mother with nowhere else to go. We didn’t have any empty shelter beds at the time, so we paid for her family to stay in a local motel until the next room became available. She didn’t have transportation, so during that time we took her children to school and her to work. She has since moved from the emergency shelter to transitional housing, and now has a lease in our permanent supportive housing program, Home Again. Her family is now safe, doing well in school, and thrilled that Santa will be delivering many well-deserved gifts to them this year – especially peace.
Taina knocked on our doors on her 18th birthday. She grew up in foster care all around the state of Florida – she’s never stayed in a home longer than 2 years since her parents overdosed when she was just 9. She just completed her first year here in the New Heights program for unaccompanied youth. She says she “truly feels like somebody for the first time.” Taina finished her GED last month and is the proud manager at a local restaurant. Taina plans to start at SCF next year; her goal is to be a social worker to give back the biggest gift that she got from her time here – love.
Belonging. Hope. Peace. Love. – These are some of the gifts that many of us are privileged to receive year-round. These are the very gifts that we give every day to every client. Many have lost or have never experienced these profound wonders of life.
At a time when thankfulness and generosity are at the forefront of our attention, may we consider how it might feel to have a family holiday for the first time – baking pies together, loudly cheering for a football team, and sitting around a fire because someone thoughtfully invited you to join their family this year. Imagine what it would be like to wake up Christmas morning with gifts under the tree because of the generosity of people who purchased the toys your kids wanted. Imagine how it would feel to have a group of friends and a safe place to bring in the new year, without the danger of being triggered back into habits of addiction.
Because of your generosity, Harvest House is able to provide supportive housing and addiction recovery for families, youth, veterans, and adults. Substance abuse and homelessness are symptoms of deeper traumas, and oftentimes, they are generational. Our staff works hard to make sure that children don’t miss school, that we are there to advocate for clients in court, that someone is available at any hour of the day or night to answer a call for help, and most importantly that everyone knows how much they are valued and loved.
We’ve accomplished a lot this year and this decade, and we’re excited to launch into the next chapter at full speed. We’re working on expanding our facilities to include a life-enrichment campus with more office space and classrooms to host hundreds of clients for classes, meetings, and workshops every month. We’re about to launch the Harvest House Satellite Program which will allow up to 200 more individuals to exit incarceration and get the out-patient recovery support they need. We’re also planning amazing things for the Home Again Luncheon coming up on February 26th, so please save the date!
Happy Holidays to you and yours,
Erin E. Minor
They say – “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
Consider making a donation to Harvest House this holiday season in honor of someone who gave something to you that changed your life forever.