“God has given me a unique vision to see the people on the margins who are passed by every day. I grew up on a farm with a disabled father and a mother who was always gone because she worked three jobs to keep the power on. I know the pain of doing without and what it is like when the car won’t start and you can’t get to work, leaving you a little farther behind. I know that when a child is at home alone while the parent is working, the Devil is going to sneak in and try to snare that child. At age 13, I was alone and smoking pot. For many years, I was lost and in bars chasing someone to love me and take care of me. It gave me a huge understanding of how people end up addicted and in bad situations.
My life turned around and I worked for my husband for 15 years as a paralegal. He does a lot of pro-bono work, so I worked with working class people helping to fix their problems. In 2001, I had two babies and was burning the candle at both ends. I was stricken with an autoimmune disease similar to Lupus and it disabled me. I was really sick, but still had the heart that God had given me. In 2002, I saw a petite, blond girl at a bus station and God told me to help her. I pulled over and asked if I could give her a ride. She had severe mental illness and her four children had been taken from her and were living in Cullman. That is when I started helping the homeless every day.
I am a social justice advocate and care for the people so far down they can’t scratch their way up the slippery slope. People don’t get it, but you can’t call yourself a Christian following Jesus and condemn the people at the bottom. You can’t understand a person’s plight in life until you walk in their shoes.
In this kind of work, the fruit you see is about 10 percent of those you try to help. I got a call about Angela who was pregnant when she walked into a church. She was on the street pregnant and schizophrenic from May until I found her in September. She was raped and beaten. Her feet were swollen. When I got her, I was so angry at our community. How could this happen? She ultimately ended up moving in with my family for a while. I knew the baby was coming and that she couldn’t care for it, so we worked with DHR to find a home for the baby.
Last week, a woman was about to jump from the DIP overpass on I-10 and a friend stopped to help. She had two kids in car seats. He talked her out of jumping and brought her to me. She had a difficult life. She once exchanged her body for food and shelter but now has a house and car. She lost her job because she had to work on a Saturday but had no childcare. After that, her youngest child’s father told her she was worthless. She went to church to seek the Lord, but the man giving the sermon had molested her for her entire childhood. She was not suicidal, she just had so much hit her. When she decided not to jump, she asked my friend, ‘Can you just give me a hug?’ I bought her groceries and found a teenager to keep her kids while she works on weekends. Her boss is also working with her. My church was able to get her utilities caught up.
I know how to open doors and get things done and I still can’t help every person out of their situations. We are living in a third world country in Mobile. People have no idea what is on the other side of Spring Hill Avenue or Dauphin Street where people are just trying to survive. There is no thinking ahead when you have to watch behind your back to stay alive.
My boys grew up riding and helping with me. Every year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we prepared a big Thanksgiving meal and made plates to take out to the homeless. My oldest son just graduated from law school and is working in the Mobile District Attorney’s office. He hopes to help start a mental health force with an Alta Pointe representative there all of the time and train judges in mental illness and how to adjucate mental health cases. He wrote a thesis in law school about the criminalization of the mentally ill in Alabama.
Mental illness is a part of homelessness. I bring people home and put them in a bedroom or in a hotel. I have never been hurt or felt intimidated. This is where God wants me and He gives me discernment.
I work between I-65 and the Loop every day looking for those who need help. My husband requires me to be home at five to have dinner. I have snuck out of bed in the middle of the night to pick up a young mother who is working at Steak & Shake to give her a ride back to her apartment so she can keep her job. I have five moms living in cars, some of the cars work, some don’t. I pull people out of the parking lot at Beltline all of the time. There are so many needs and I started a Homeless in Mobile Facebook group to get the community involved. I accept donations and any help people can give.
A man who was once homeless told me, ‘If you are in a church that won’t let the homeless sleep on a pew, you better find another church.’ I told my pastor that and they are working on it. There are going to be folks in my church that don’t like it, but what you do for the least of these, you do for Jesus. No one homeless feels good about themselves. The vast majority of people I have encountered have experienced childhood trauma. Physical, sexual, or mental. Learn their name, look them in the eye, and talk to them. Make them feel human. They are invisible to so many, let them know you see them.
There are powerful people in Mobile who can make a difference to those struggling to get off the bottom. At the Country Club or in a business meeting, go up to Sandy Stimpson and other elected officials and say we need better bus routes and public transportation because that is how we get poor people to the jobs they need.
Get out there and make a difference anywhere. Being thankful and serving God is a lot more than putting a check in the offering plate.”