From Having It All to Tragedy to Hope

Anna Perez - croppedIn 2010, Anna it all. She owned a home and two cars and was “living the ‘American Dream’” with her long-time life partner. Tragedy struck when she and her partner of 14 years both lost their jobs and could no longer afford their home. After foreclosing on their home, filing for bankruptcy, and losing her truck to repossession, Anna liquidated everything she owned to stay afloat. But nothing could stop the downward spiral that resulted in a period of homelessness and loss that lasted nearly 4 years.

Life as a woman experiencing homelessness was one of uncertainty, fear, loneliness, and despair. “I was too busy feeling sorry for myself to help myself. I gave up. It doesn’t take long when you are sleeping on the streets,” describes Anna. Then came the drugs and alcohol. “I told myself that I was not going to do [homelessness] sober.” Anna started using anything that came her way to cope with the terror of being on the streets. “I tried to kill myself three times. I was so angry when I woke up, still alive.”

One day, Anna was sleeping outside of the Albuquerque Rescue Mission when she took advantage of free donuts and coffee offered by St. Martin’s. “I talked to a guy named John, who ended up being my case manager.” He suggested she go see Dorothee from Heading Home. Shortly after, Anna qualified for a housing voucher from the Supportive Housing Coalition.“It took me a year to recover,” explains Anna. “I slept on the couch for a long time. I didn’t know how long [being housed] was going to last. I stayed in the house with the shades and door closed. I didn’t leave unless to go get groceries.”

Eventually, Anna started to trust her new situation – being permanently housed is now her new reality. “I told myself I could [avoid] everything and run or face everything and recover. Well now I am fully recovered, I am okay, I am safe.” Anna is currently going to school and is starting to “give back” as a member of the Tenant Advisory Committee for SHC-NM.

“I am doing all the right things. I’m not using, I am recovering from the physical issues homelessness caused. But my faith is what really pulls me through. You guys are heaven sent. If it wasn’t for you and free coffee and donuts that morning, I would not be here today. I don’t care if I can’t buy material things. I have a bed to sleep in.”

SHC-NM is a statewide nonprofit housing organization incorporated in 1996. Based in Albuquerque, SHC-NM represents a formal collaboration among some of New Mexico’s most respected business providers of homeless and behavioral health services. The mission of SHC-NM is to prevent and reduce homelessness and to increase the quality of life for people with behavioral health issues in New Mexico by creating affordable, supportive housing in partnership with local communities and participating agencies. Services include tenant based rental assistance, move-in and eviction prevention, crisis housing, and affordable, supportive housing through its 7 apartment home complexes based in Albuquerque, Gallup, and Las Vegas, New Mexico.

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