On Sunday, September 8, we held our annual fundraiser, the Abel Construction Clubs & Cocktails, at Louisville Marriott East. Each year we ask a client to share how they came to St. Vincent de Paul Louisville and each client story is a testament to how much work it takes to lift yourself out of poverty, homelessness, and addiction. No matter how bad things seem, there is always hope and things do get better.
This year our guest speaker was Adrienne Elmehalaway. With her permission, we are sharing her story as presented at Clubs & Cocktails.
Hello. I’m honored to be here to speak with you this evening. My name is Adrienne and I’m here to speak to you about homelessness. Believe it or not, I was homeless not too long ago with a child but before I tell you about that I want to share a little bit about myself.
Growing up as a child on the outside looking in you could say I had a picture perfect family until you took a deep look. My father is an alcoholic/addict and my mother was the same. So when I became an addict in my young adult years there was no surprise. Growing up in a chaotic environment I learned not to trust anyone which followed me through life until I got help around age 25. I’ve always had this alone feeling and not being wanted probably due to my parents divorcing. My mother left us and my father sent us to live with my grandmother because he was more worried about his job. So I promised myself once I turned 18 I would move to the city! Living in the country all my life, Louisville was a big city to me.
After graduation I moved into an apartment with a friend and I thought all my problems would go away. Little did I know all the new problems that come along with being a young adult. I had to work two jobs to be able to afford my part of the rent on top of my shopping addiction. After years of this I became tired so I moved back home to try to save some money but that didn’t work out very well. I then started to spend most of my time hanging around older men, drinking and dealing with daddy issues. This was a disaster waiting to happen. Years later, I got married for the first time for all the wrong reasons. Needless to say after seeing my mother being beat, I promised myself I would never put myself in that situation so I left and we divorced.
I fell in love with someone who changed my life forever. I was introduced to pain pills for the first time and I fell in love with it. I was so in awe that a small tiny pill could take all my worries away, give me crazy energy all at the same time. It started out as a weekend thing that turned in to a week thing. Then it got to the point to where I had to have it every day or I was sick.
In all the madness of addiction I became pregnant and I didn’t even realize it until I was almost two months pregnant. After finding out I knew things had to change but I didn’t think I had the strength to do it. Soon after finding out I was pregnant I got married for the second time. I was still struggling with my addiction—lying, stealing and manipulating to get money for drugs. This is where my addiction got bad. I was in and out of jail, stealing, you name it. I did it and I hid it very well until one day we were getting ready for work and the police were looking for me! That’s when my husband figured out what was going on. He gave me an ultimatum to either stop doing drugs and be with him or keep using and he would leave. I chose drugs so he left. After that point in my life I knew I had to stop so I did for a while. I had a beautiful baby boy that was healthy.
Fast forward several years and my son was three years old. My husband and I were trying to work things out but by that point I knew the relationship was over. I wanted my son to have a father figure in his life because I never really had that so we stayed together for a while until I met someone else. I got pregnant again but I lost the baby and my husband found out so he filed for divorce.
At this time I was offered an amazing job in Florence, Kentucky. Everything in my life wasn’t good so I thought it would be a fresh start. Little did I know my addiction reared its ugly head and I relapsed. I was still dealing with court from previous charges so I was court ordered to go through HIP (home incarceration program) in Louisville for 30 days. I was lucky enough to have a friend that was willing to let me do it at her house and I had to bring my son. At this point in my life I was so alone with everything. So when I got done with my 30 days I started a methadone program that literally saved my life. By that time the guy I was with was over everything so he left and I was stuck paying the full rent on my own. I did for a little while but it got to be too much. I decided to move back to Louisville, I got a small apartment and things were great for a while until I was out of work for some time.
I was then forced to move in with my mom because I was being evicted. The first night at my mom’s house, the front of the house catches on fire! We end up getting a trailer together. I put the water bill in my name to contribute to the bills but that wasn’t enough for my mom. She wanted money on top of that. Mind you I’m trying to save money so my son and I can get our own place.
I was forced to move out because it was too stressful and my son didn’t need to be around all the fighting. My friend was willing to let us stay there for a bit until I found something but that time came and went and we had nowhere to go so I called the Coalition for the Homeless. I asked if they knew of a place we could go because we had been sleeping in my car for a few days. They took my phone number and said they would call once they had something.
Well we were lucky enough to get a call back and was told about the Volunteers of America. I was so excited that things were looking up. Little did I know it took us 10 months to finally get in to a place. I was very discouraged because I had been doing everything I was supposed to with case management. I took classes that taught me a lot and was finally able to get Medicare for myself. But one day I got a call from Mr. Julio from St Vincent de Paul and was told about the family apartments they had. I was so excited to see all my hard work had paid off.
Once at St. Vincent de Paul I was introduced to my case worker who at the time was Ms. Stephanie. She went above and beyond her job to help me in any way she could. She got me involved in workshops and meetings. They introduced me to the St. Jude recovery meetings. I was sad to see her go but I now have another great case manager, Bridget that cares just as much about her clients. Bridget recently informed me about the move-up voucher they offer, so I am currently waiting for that.
Homelessness can happen to anyone at any point in your life but there are places like St. Vincent de Paul that can help if you are willing to accept it and do what is asked of you.
After Adrienne shared her story, Jennifer Clark, Director of Programs, added, “Adrienne is absolutely one of our success stories. I have watched her struggle and overcome so many obstacles. She is a fantastic mother to her children. She is getting ready to move out on her own, and after everything she has been through, I think she finally knows that she is enough and she can do this.”
Your support at events like Clubs and Cocktails helps people move their lives forward. Look for a full event wrap up in the next The Good Samaritan.