Determination and a Positive Attitude Helped Trudy Succeed

January 28, 2016
Julia Weegar

Chicago Homeless Services//Cold Weather Campaign//Franciscan OutreachAfter a 25-year career as a clerk for Chicago Public Schools and with two grown children moved away, Trudy was ready for retirement. Starting a new chapter in her life, Trudy decided to move with her mother to Arizona. Trudy secured a good job at a bank and she and her mother enjoyed the warm climate together. After a few years, Trudy’s mother missed Chicago and decided to move back. Trudy took time off from work to move her mother back to Chicago. However, when she returned to Arizona, she found that she had lost her position at the bank. Without a stable income, Trudy fell on hard times.

Eager to get back on her feet, Trudy went to stay with her daughter in Florida. However, soon after she arrived, Trudy suffered a heart attack, which left her unable to work and drained what little money she had left. Unfortunately, Trudy’s daughter had to move and Trudy was unable to go with her. Homeless, and with no support network, she moved back to Chicago to be close to her mother.

“I never thought, in a million years, that I would be homeless,” Trudy says. “I wasn’t prepared!”

When Trudy arrived in Chicago, she knew she needed immediate help. Her mother was not well and could not provide a place for her to stay. Trudy had no home, no food, no transportation, no adequate clothing, and no appropriate identification. She was in crisis.

Trudy soon found herself living on the streets and asking people for money to buy food. “It was degrading to ask for help,” she remembers, wiping away tears. “To stand in front of a place full of food and not be able to buy any of it for myself, that was hard,” she says.

Each night, Trudy searched for a safe, warm place to sleep. She found a small area in an alley where she felt like she could stay hidden. “It was scary to lie somewhere you don’t feel safe or secure, but there’s no choice. You have to cover up as much as possible so you aren’t seen,” she says.

“On cold winter nights,” Trudy adds, “the trick is to sleep on empty milk cartons so your body doesn’t freeze on the frozen ground.”

Thankfully, Trudy heard about Franciscan Outreach and found her way to the Day Program at 10 South Kedzie. Trudy was given food, warm clothing, and a bus pass so she could get around. She also worked with a case manager to get an Illinois state identification card.

“I felt so proud when I got that part done,” she remembers, “but I was still scared because I didn’t know what would come next.”

The next step for Trudy was to access Franciscan Outreach’s emergency shelter. Once in the shelter, Trudy was relieved to be sleeping inside where she felt safe and warm. At the shelter, Trudy received breakfast in the morning and a warm bed and hot meal each evening. She also had access to shower facilities, mail services, an onsite health clinic and case management services.

Through case management services, Trudy met with a case manager to find out what she could do to get back on her feet. The case manager helped Trudy to identify her goals. Through this process, Trudy was able to secure a spot in the Franciscan Outreach Interim Housing Program, which allowed her to work on her goals, volunteer at the shelter, look for employment and take the appropriate steps to move into permanent housing.

Today, Trudy is employed through National Able’s job training program and has secured permanent housing where she now sleeps in her own warm bed on cold winter nights.

Trudy says that a positive attitude helped get her through the darkest days. “Each step forward was so exciting to me. I just had to keep going,” Trudy says.

“I never want to go back. I never want to be homeless again,” she continues. “But I don’t want to forget, either.”

Looking back at the goals she set for herself when she first started working with a case manager, Trudy says that she reviews her goals to measure where she was and how far she’s come.

By staying involved with Franciscan Outreach, Trudy hopes that other guests can look at her story and feel motivated to do the same.

“I did it!” Trudy confidently exclaims. “And if I could do it, other people can, too!”

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