A SACRED PLACE
A Community For Peace is a sacred place I always dreamed of as a child. I always wanted somewhere I could go where I knew I was safe from harm’s way. It is a family of people who accept my imperfections and flaws and still love me unconditionally. It’s an environment where I can go to be myself, to be free of all burdens and the chaos of the world without being judged.
As an adolescent, this place only existed in my mind. I would lose myself in this imaginary community for weeks and months, numbing out all the pain I felt daily from the environment I was surrounded by. By the time I came back to reality everything had fallen apart around me— my home, my family and me. I found myself building boundaries so high that I couldn’t recognize me anymore.
I have been running away my whole life trying to find these communities that only existed in my dreams. I have been in some of the biggest whorehouses, drug houses and worst streets of St. Louis trying to find this safe haven for me and my child. I couldn’t find it. But I didn’t give up on my vision of this “Community for Peace.”
I knew it existed somewhere, I just didn’t know where. I asked God to lead my feet to where I’m destined to be. On May 25, 2017, I boarded the Amtrak headed to California with my baby on my hip, one suitcase and my baby girl’s albuterol machine. We landed in downtown Sacramento on May 27. I was scared for me and my daughter. I didn’t know my way around. I saw all the homeless people and got so discouraged about this mission of finding this dream of mine because I had just traveled thousands of miles to see the same pain of St.Louis here in California, but it was worse.
That night I called 211. They gave me a list of resources. The last resource 211 gave was a place called A Community For Peace. I marked a star by it immediately. I called the resources one by one. It being a Saturday, they all denied me and my daughter shelter. I started crying and praying as I dialed the last resource. I received an answer from a lady telling me to stay calm, and she would have someone call me.
This complete stranger, who I didn’t know from a can of paint, reassured me that I wasn’t alone and my daughter and I would be OK. I started panicking again when 24 hours had passed. Then the phone rang. It was another woman who helped me navigate and come up with a plan for my next step. She met with me and my daughter. I was scared. I didn’t trust her. When we drove to a big building, I got even more nervous: Is she about to body traffic me and my daughter, as had been done in my past?
As we stepped foot into ACFP, and I got to read and see all the artwork, I realized instantly that I had nothing to fear. The energy that greeted me was welcoming, full of real love and empathy, and very secure. This was it. This was the place I dreamed of as a child. It really does exist. We have been here for seven months. A Community For Peace has been by our side the whole way. I have moved from the crisis shelter into transitional housing, and now we have our own townhouse! Sometimes I still wake up, like ACFP is too good to be true. Like, what’s the catch? There isn’t one. If you asked what ACFP is to me … ACFP is unconditional love.
~Written by a Survivor Featured in News & Review
WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS
In case the title gives you pause to not read further, let me start by saying, this is a story with a happy conclusion. The tale is not over yet, so the end is not yet here. This client’s story goes back too far to start at the beginning, so I’ll start with a recent Wednesday visit when our client (“Sister”) came in for some overdue assistance, and began her visit with Miss Colette from our ACFP legal department. She had seen Miss Colette during her last visit, and things went well then.
As stories go, Sister’s past domestic violence situation left her in desperate need for extensive dental work and no way to afford any parts of what would include dentures before she was able to have any confidence speaking to others! From that visit to ACFP, Miss Colette had found help from Miss Char, who was able to secure services from a dentist who agreed to do ALL work needed to give her the smile she’d been hiding, and all pro bono – FREE! With the appointment to begin the dental work coming up in October, she thought she couldn’t ask for any more assistance! It was with that fear in her heart that she delayed coming back into our office with another very pressing need. This day found her very overwrought due to an electric bill that topped $500 and had actually been turned off – a week earlier!
To start things off, Miss Colette introduced Sister to Miss Marilyn from our housing department. Yes, our housing department helps with utilities too, and Miss Marilyn promptly started the required paperwork to put the electricity back on at Sister’s place, where this single mom of 3 then indicated, rather tearfully, that without power to her fridge, all her groceries had spoiled and had been subsequently tossed out! (yes….no food for her kiddos) And more, that her 13 year old daughter’s birthday was this very Wednesday, and she had only $10 to her name to work with!
Well, at ACFP, we share family crisis with any and every department that has elements that fit the particular crisis at the time. This time, Miss Colette took her to see Miss Alicia, from ACFP’s Outreach department. They were taken to the food supply brought in every Wednesday for sharing with the women that attend the DVAS groups/classes that meet on Wednesdays. In what many, including Sister would recognize as a miracle, there were quite a few items that would help feed her family that included 3 children, and among those findings was a beautiful rainbow decorated birthday cake to surprise her daughter! Yes…we were all overjoyed.
While Sister’s visit Wednesday didn’t resolve everything she may have yet to deal with, it was clear by the time she returned home that her rainy day had definitely poured out a flood of blessings for her and her family, with the hope of more to come. Miss Colette had to remind Sister that we do not have limits to how often or how much or how many times we will help a client in need so long as we have the means and resources available. Clients only need to come see us and ask! With all the amazing staff at ACFP, the pool of resources that we can access for our clients even surprises us on occasion.
This story is a continued reminder the barriers and challenges that many of the women of Domestic Violence experience. A Community For Peace is committed to breaking down those barriers.
As retold by Peggy Lee
“Sister” is being used to protect the identity of our survivor/client.