It’s hard to imagine the challenges that Alayna has dealt with in her young life. Born in Albuquerque but raised in another state in an abusive home, she started experiencing mood swings at a very young age. Because of the abuse, Alayna was sent back to Albuquerque to live with a relative. But her living situation remained unstable. Feeling alone and vulnerable, she began to act out in very destructive ways. She had her first of four children at 17 and could never seem to settle down. Faced with mental health issues she couldn’t identify, let alone understand, Alayna turned to drugs. “I became a drug addict,” she says simply. All this led to trouble with the law and, ultimately, jail.
Then, at 29 years old, Alayna had an epiphany. “I didn’t want to do drugs and be in trouble with the law,” she explains, “and I attribute this to God.” Alayna set out to become healthy, but that didn’t come without intense sacrifice, giving up all four of her children “because I wasn’t a good parent.” Alayna went on to earn her GED, obtain a drivers’ license, and complete her probation and parole. While she was making progress, she still had no place to call home. And she still didn’t understand how her mental health issues were impacting her daily life. “I tried to work but I couldn’t hold down a job,” she states straightforwardly.
Finally, in 2012, Alayna had a diagnosis that would not only help her strategize her recovery but also make her eligible for assistance. This led her to the Supportive Housing Coalition of New Mexico and what has now been her apartment for over 3 years. “I had heard about these apartments from my parole officer, my case manager, and even a gentleman on the bus,” she says with a smile. With the income she gets from SSDI she is able to rent an affordable apartment from SHC-NM and has plans to move from her studio to a 1-bedroom and have more space.
A culinary arts student at CNM, Alayna only has one more year to go for her Associates degree. While college is tough, she feels a great sense of belonging, of being “plugged in.” She is grateful every day that she finally has a safe place to live. Because of this sense of safety Alayna doesn’t worry about much else. “I can sleep, prepare my dinner, study and read. I’m getting healthy physically, emotionally, and mentally.” Alayna really hopes to get to a place where she can use her degree and perhaps open her own pastry shop. “Maybe I’ll get married,” she says, “most importantly, I am finally able to have a clear dream for my future.”