From homeless to hope


A Story of hope

Jill's Journey


Jill grew up in a stable home with both parents whom she describes as loving and secure. She dreamed of being happily married and raising a family. Jill married young, had a child and was headed for the life she dreamed of. Then, after only 2 months of marriage, her husband died in a tragic accident. His death hit Jill hard.  She eventually recovered but carried the trauma from his death with her each and every day.

Jill remarried, settled into family life, and had 3 more children. Sadly, she became a widow again, when her second husband passed away.

Jill turned to alcohol to cope. This time, though, Jill had a harder time recovering. She had panic attacks and episodes of depression. She was drinking every day. Eventually, Jill lost interest in her job and then she lost her housing.  Jill was homeless on the streets of San Diego for 10 years before finding safety, support and ultimately recovery at Father Joe’s Villages.

When asked what led her to Father Joe’s Villages she shared, “I was sick. I was tired of being homeless and tired of losing everything. I couldn’t stop drinking.” Jill says that she had to do something. “I said to myself, I can’t be the poster child for hopelessness anymore.”

The most difficult thing about being homeless is being hopeless. When you are at the very bottom, at your lowest point ever, you feel overwhelmed at what it would take to get out of it, to get any kind of services, to even receive mail, it all seems so overwhelming, so insurmountable. Your whole day is just survival.

Jill moved in to the Paul Mirabile Center in 2010. It wasn’t the first time she tried to leave the streets, but this time she was determined to say good-bye for good.

After Jill moved in she immediately got to work. She connected with our Addiction Treatment and Education Center, enrolled in classes in Employment and Education Services, attend groups offered by Chaplaincy and saw a doctor and psychiatrist in the Village Family Health Center.

Jill shared, “The idea of my children finding me dead, or alive in that condition, made me reach out for help. I promised myself: I will do everything they say, everything they think can help, I am doing it.”

I threw myself into the addiction treatment program like my life depended on it. In fact, it did. The road to recovery from alcohol dependence was painful and challenging, but glorious.

Jill attended groups including women’s education and process group, healthy relationships and aftercare. She met with an ATEC Counselor for individual counseling and went to sober support meeting twice a week. After drinking daily for nearly 15 years, Jill has been active in her recovery for more than 8 years! She says, “I wouldn’t have anything if I wasn’t in recovery, I wouldn’t have my children, I wouldn’t have a life that I can be proud of.”

Spirituality was important to her so she visited Chaplaincy and attended women’s support group, art workshop and a women’s leadership program. "Sister Carmel was so encouraging. She saw something in me that I didn’t see yet. She saw a spark. She inspired me and encouraged me to keep going," Jill said.

Jill jumped into the life skills and computer classes offered by Employment and Education Services and spent hours studying for her GED, which she received just before graduating from the program.

On top of all that, Jill attended a sector-based training program for property management. She graduated as the Valedictorian at the top of her class and got a full-time job working in property management.

Jill graduated from our transitional housing program in September 2011. She has maintained full-time employment and lived in her own apartment ever since.

In May 2017, Jill become the on-site Community Director at Talmadge Gateway, a 60-unit permanent supportive housing development for seniors who have recently experienced homelessness. Through Father Joe’s Villages Tenant Services and another local provider Talmadge residents are provided supportive services that promote stability and greater independence. For Jill, working at Talmadge Gateway, with people who were once homeless themselves, provides the opportunity to connect with the residents in a way that few others can and offer the same hope and encouragement that she found so valuable in her own journey out of homelessness.

When Jill was on the streets she didn’t have any contact with her children. Jill shares, “It look a while for my kids to believe that things were going to be different, to trust again.”  Today, Jill gets to see one of her daughters nearly every weekend and she is looking forward to this summer when one of her granddaughters is coming to stay with her. “Now,” Jill says, “I think they are proud of me.”

Jill credits her time at Father Joe’s Villages with the success and stability she continues to experience. “The training and support I had while I was there, affords me the life I live today. When I was there, people believed in me. They kept repeating, you can do this and here are the tools you can use. They helped me find hope again.”

The programs at Father Joe’s Villages provide the tools you need to become successful and to become independent. Honestly, it is a one stop shop for everything you need…medically, legally, spiritually, educationally. All of it. If you want to change your situation, that is the place to go to receive the help you need. It isn’t easy. It’s really not, but it’s worth it; to become a contributing part of society, to be able to give back is really huge.