Profiles of the Mid-Shore’s Homeless: Providing Hope in Queen Anne’s County

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Editor’s note: These profiles by Easton-based author Amy Steward spotlight four unique cases of homelessness on the Mid-Shore that have turned out positively with the Haven Ministries in Stevensville, MD. This faith-based nonprofit has served Queen Anne’s County for eleven years providing quality programs that address housing, hunger and clothing for those who have become shipwrecked in a sea storm of economic recession and bad luck.  

Marie

When Marie, a 63-year old woman of Queen Anne’s County, lost her job in April 2012, it didn’t seem like things could possibly get any worse. But, they did. She soon fell behind in her rent, facing eviction. In October 2012, the unthinkable happened and she was involved in a single car accident, sending her to Shock Trauma. She was both physically and emotionally broken. Suffering from an injured vertebrae and a radial fracture, she struggled to move in a body and boot cast. A friend took her in after she got out of Shock Trauma to help care for her. A few weeks later, while recuperating, she learned from a routine Pap smear that she had uterine and cervical cancer.

Marie was discharged from the hospital, following her cancer surgery, with no insurance to pay for a rehabilitation placement, no family to care for her, and ultimately, no place to go since her eviction notice had arrived. A hospital social worker referred her to a shelter in her community, Haven Ministries in Stevensville, MD, where Marie could go following her surgery – a place that turned Marie’s life around.

In January 2013, Haven Ministries took Marie in, initially in their overnight shelter at Kent Island Methodist Church. For the month, she stayed at the shelter overnight at the church and during the day attended Stevensville Senior Center. On weekends when the shelter was closed, Haven Ministries found her a safe place to stay, as she was still weak and using a walker from her car accident. Marie recalls, “I had nothing but the hospital clothes I left in. My things had been placed in storage when I was evicted and I had no way of getting anything while in the hospital. Haven Ministries provided me with clothes from their Thrift Shop when I arrived and a safe place to stay. They looked after me. It took a lot of their time to help me. I am so thankful for what they did.”

Haven Ministries Case Manager, Sandi Wiscott, was with Marie every step of the way, making sure she got to her chemotherapy and radiation appointments, doctor appointments, and even helped her get her Social Security Disability so that she could eventually find her own housing.

Marie adds, “Sandi helped me a lot. Everything had crashed in on me. At one point, I was depressed and suicidal. I believe if it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t be here today.

Things began to get better for Marie. After finishing her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she moved into Haven Ministries’ transitional house where she stayed until November 2013. Marie made use of Haven Ministries Food Pantry and began to regain her strength. During these months, Sandi helped Marie get her life together and to eventually secure senior disability housing in Centreville. Haven Ministries even helped her with the furniture she needed for her new apartment.

Today, Marie is two years cancer free. She is in fairly good health, living in her apartment in Centreville. She is still active in the Stevensville Senior Center and also the Grasonville Senior Center, where she calls Bingo. She comments, “I am thankful to God and all the people he put in my life to guide me and get me through all of this.”

Heidi

Six months ago, Heidi, age 34 from Queen Anne’s County, fell behind with her car and rent
payments and almost lost everything. Her partner and the father of her children had gotten involved with the wrong crowd and made some poor choices, leaving Heidi alone to care for her three children who were under the age of 10.

While in Haven Ministries Thrift Shop in Stevensville, MD, Heidi learned that she could get assistance during this difficult time. Heidi recalls, “Haven Ministries really showed me the light. Their case manager, Sandi Wiscott, helped me access their case management services without judging me. They helped to support me so that I could still be a mom to my children.”

Heidi used Haven Ministries Food Pantry, which provided her family with fresh produce, donated by local farmers – something that surprised and delighted her. Sandi helped her contact different churches in Queen Anne’s County to help her with her back rent, as well as to provide gas money, diapers, toiletries, and cleaning supplies until she could get on her feet.

She comments, “It warmed my heart to see how much Haven Ministries is helping everyone. I didn’t expect that strangers cared enough to understand my story and would help me in the ways that they did. I can’t put into words how this has made my personal faith grow. The Lord really does carry you when you are alone. I am so thankful.”

Because of Haven Ministries, Heidi was also able to get information to support her in parenting her children. She is now ready to pursue a career that will enable her to support her family. She comments, “I knew going through this that I needed to help myself. They helped me gain insight into myself, to set goals, and to take my own initiative in setting my future path. I am currently working on finding some career training.”

She adds, “Taking care of my children motivates me to look toward the future again.”

Mary

Like most of us, Mary, age 56 of Centreville, had a good job as an instructional assistant in the schools. She got hurt on the job in 2002 and could no longer work. This led to her becoming disabled and requiring assistance to just make ends meet. She recalls using Haven Ministries Food Pantry soon after they opened and has been using it ever since to help feed the two adults who live with her, along with her 10-year old grandchild. She even has extra to share with her housebound 81-year old mother.

Mary comments, “It has been a blessing to me and my family to have the Food Pantry.”
Since the Food Pantry receives fresh fruits and vegetables seasonally from area farmers, the quality of the food has offered Mary and her family healthy choices. She used the cabbages, potatoes and onions in the winter months and now is getting corn, watermelon and cantaloupe – items which wouldn’t be affordable for her on her disability check. She adds, “You have choices at the Food Pantry. They have staples like tea bags and ketchup, as well as poultry and ham, drinks and even freeze pops for the kids.”

Mary explains that she was raised with both parents working full-time and never thought she would need assistance from a food pantry. She states, “A lot of people have pride and won’t seek out assistance like this. I had to do this and it has been a blessing to me both financially and spiritually. The people at Haven Ministries don’t look down on you or judge you. They have deep love for the people they serve.”

Mary equates the love she receives from Haven Ministries with the love she felt for the kids she worked with in the schools. She adds, “The people are so nice at Haven Ministries. They are concerned about us like I was concerned about the kids who I cared for. We leave their every time with a smile on our faces.”

Facing hip surgery in the near future, Mary has had to give up volunteering for the Food Pantry, something she enjoyed. She hopes after her recovery to work in Haven Ministries Thrift Shop, which has helped her as well. The Thrift Shop offers household items, like sheets and towels, and even slightly-used appliances. Mary states, “I want to give back because they have been so good to me and my family.”

Barry

Three years ago, Barry, age 57 and disabled, sold everything he had to move to Florida from Maryland to be with his partner. When things didn’t work out in Florida, he returned to his family in Queen Anne’s County, broke and unable to care for himself. Living from couch to couch at the homes of friends and family, he found himself homeless with nowhere to turn in November 2014. At that point, he had even lost his lifelong companion, his dog. Through the recommendation of a church in Centreville, Barry sought out help from Haven Ministries.
He recalls, “The weather was turning colder and I could no longer stay with friends or family. Haven Ministries provided me with a warm place to stay and good food to eat. They truly cared for me.”

Barry was able to stay at the shelter through April 2015. During this time, he received case management services to help him start saving money for a vehicle and look for affordable housing options in the county. He comments, “While living on the street, I couldn’t save money to get a vehicle or a place to live. I couldn’t seem to get on my feet again.”

In addition to the assistance staff provided, Barry found the shelter was more than just a roof over his head. He enjoyed the camaraderie of the other residents and the staff. He even learned to play dominoes while he was there – something he had never learned before. He adds, “The staff was so nice. They treated me well and I felt like I had a family again. I realized while living with the other people in the shelter that anyone can become homeless and fall on hard times. No one is immune to it.”

Today, Barry has been able to buy a vehicle and is living on a boat. He is on a waiting list for affordable housing, which he hopes will work out soon. He concludes, “Coming to Haven Ministries was the best thing I could have done to get my life back together. Because it is still hard to make ends meet, I am still using Haven Ministries Food Pantry and Thrift Store. That has really helped me. Everything is good now.”

For more information please go to Haven Ministries

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