Assisting AnneMarie

ANNMARIE HELPED THOSE WE SERVE.
THEN SHE FOUND HERSELF ON THE OTHER SIDE.

“I have been connected with The Open Shelter since 2000 starting with Columbus Neighborhood Health Centers and working with Healthcare For The Homeless.  Even before that, my mother and I used to volunteer at the original location on State St.  I remember Kent (Beittel), The Open Shelter’s original Director.  I was in junior high.  It impacted me and I became a social worker.  I’ve always wanted to work with the most underserved and I believe the homeless were because of what I saw when I was with my mother.  It was part of our family to help others.”

“I would come to The Open Shelter once or twice a week while working for Healthcare For The Homeless signing up people that needed help or services.  I was also part of an outreach group that went out into the woods every Tuesday.  I met people on the land who had college degrees, people who weren’t what society thought they were, like addicts first.” 

A lot of people didn’t pick up or have an addiction until they became homeless because of their circumstances.  A lot of people lost their jobs and didn’t have support.  It gave me a different perspective of all the barriers dealt by the underserved.  I modeled myself after Kent.  He advocated for the homeless no matter what was going on.  I worked with a Veteran who was living on the land.  He only had one leg and we really needed to get him in to see a doctor or he was going to lose his only leg.  I got approval to stay with him for two weeks to get him help with the VA.  His tent was partitioned off with two rooms.”

“I had a lot of trauma happen here in Columbus.  I was the victim of a home invasion.  I left to go to North Carolina in 2009.  I started to abuse the pain medicine that was prescribed to me by my doctor.  When I took the pain medicine, it gave me more energy so I could do more work.” 

I thought that meant I wasn’t an addict.  I was very functional.  For about 10 years, it progressively got worse.  I lost everything.  I called my sister and said ‘I need help’.  She said I couldn’t bring anything with me.  I could bring my two cats and my dog.  I had to leave my car, everything.  I said ok.” 

So I went to Netcare, who I used to kind of work with before, and I had to go to the Maryhaven Engagement Center.  I walked in and James Alexander was running the show.  We both graduated from Capital University together.  I was so embarrassed and ashamed.  He put his arm around me and said ‘I am so glad you are here’.  That was the kindest thing someone did during my recovery.” 

I now saw what it felt like to be treated differently.  I had nothing. I had to stay at the Engagement Center for three months and then went to Amethyst, a long term recovery program for women.  One of the steps was you had to volunteer first.  I was ashamed, I didn’t want to be a consumer.  It took time and then the only place I could think about volunteering was The Open Shelter.” 

“When I was at the Maryhaven Engagement Center, I would come up to The Open Shelter to get sack lunches.  They would help me with clothes.  I just had the clothes on my back.  I asked Kent if I could volunteer and he said ‘Of Course!’.  I always loved Kent and his wife Mary.  Mary passed away while I was at Amethyst.  I got clean in June of 2015.  I started volunteering in 2016.  Kent was like a father to me, like a father I never had.  He was so encouraging.  I held him in such high honor.  He would tell me that when I would advocate for clients, I wouldn’t always be liked.  Thanks to his recommendation, I started working at Choices, a domestic violence shelter.  I was a supervisor.  I have been doing social work for a while.   I recently walked from a corporation because they were creating more trauma for clients.”

I am doing subcontract work right now.  It’s for a company ran by a person I used to work for so he can do therapy his way.  I told him, the one place I want to go to is The Open Shelter.  I’m now able to implement additional intervention or coping skills that weren’t taught to me because of my experiences.  I come to The Open Shelter every Wednesday.  I help out if there are people that need to speak to me.  I also help Terry with the Material Assistance Room.  It helps me out a lot because I am starting over.  The Open Shelter has always helped me.

“Your label follows you.  Anytime I would get kind of tired at some of my jobs, no matter how much clean time I had, there was always a little talk, ‘Is she getting high?’.  I would struggle with that.  I was a little naïve about that as a social worker, how we treated consumers.  It was really hard for me.  I got a big taste of the red tape.  It made me be a better person and a social worker.” 

I lived in my car my last two months in North Carolina.  I had two cats and a dog with me in a Kia Soul.  I always wondered, ‘how did I get here?’.  I never imagined I would be living out of my car.  I would still go to work.  The last month or two, I had to be medically detoxed because of the amount of drugs I was doing.  I was able to stay pretty safe because I was out in the country.  The person that was selling me drugs was letting me stay on their property.  I know why (she says with a laugh); I was a good soldier for them.”

“The Open Shelter is the best place to get your needs met.  There are so many agencies that come in here that provide services. The staff here is amazing.  You can get everything you need here. It’s like a one stop shop.”