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How Homelessness Happens

October 7, 2011
Justyn

Nine years ago, Belinda Bowen and her two sons, Justyn and Jordyn, were homeless, living in hotels, living with friends — and even living in her car. She did not foresee that one day she would be speaking publicly about homelessness: a word all-too-familiar to her just years ago.

Belinda was known as “the caregiver” of her family, taking care of her relatives, her kids, her household. Within three years, she felt like she lost it all. Her parents and three aunts all became ill, and Belinda cared for each of them until their deaths.

In the meantime, Belinda learned she had Type II Diabetes. She was also caring for her two sons, both of whom were constantly in the hospital because of heart illness. With so much going on, “It was hard to keep a job,” she said.

Jordyn

While jobs came and went, Belinda’s finances tightened. She was evicted from her apartment and, for several months, she and her sons stayed wherever they could, spending nights in hotels, in their car, and with friends.

“I felt like I had failed everybody,” she said. “I failed my boys as a mom, not being able to provide an adequate home for them. I was so disappointed and ashamed.”

Through all her struggles, however, she never lost her faith. In 2003, a friend told Belinda about Bridge Communities. Within two months, Belinda and her sons were accepted into Bridge’s Transitional Housing Program, found a church to sponsor them, and were provided an apartment to call home.

“It was God’s way of lifting us up and placing us where He knew we needed to be,” she reflected.

Belinda recalled her counselor asking her to come see an apartment that they might be able to provide for her, and, when she arrived, she was greeted with a “Welcome Home” basket and the apartment keys.

“I will never forget that day,” she said. “Words can’t describe the looks on my sons’ faces when they found out we would have a place to live.”

During her time with Bridge Communities, Belinda developed a close relationship with her mentors and case manager. She was deeply touched by the love they showed to Justyn, Jordyn and her. Almost immediately, this motivated her to give back; Belinda organized an outreach community, in which local women gathered to cook meals for the homeless.

Belinda graduated from Bridge Communities’ Transitional Housing Program after two years.

“Bridge will not only have a place in my heart, but a place in my life,” Belinda said. “I share my story with everyone. I have friends who hear it and donate to this organization, and I also have friends who hear it and are inspired to seek help like I did.”



A new life for Belinda and her boys

Belinda had always dreamed of living in a three bedroom home with a front yard. Now, with help from her Bridge case manager and a local church, Belinda has accomplished this dream.
Belinda and her sons, both of whom currently attend college, shared their story of their journey through homelessness during past Sleep Out Saturdays; you can experience their story online at http://youtu.be/mFFbaIDdF50

One year after graduating from the Bridge program, Belinda and her sons did their own “Sleep Out Saturday” and brought blankets and pillows to sleep in their car for the night.

“Not long ago, we thought our car was all we thought we’d know for a long time,” she said. “When we got in the car to ‘Sleep Out,’ we were appreciative of the purpose of Bridge and all they had done for us.”

Now a career woman and volunteer, Belinda shares her story with others as a motivational speaker. If you are interested in inviting Belinda to speak with your group, please contact Jennie at jennie.gates@bridgecommunities.org

Join us at the SOS Rally on November 5th at 505 Crescent Blvd. in downtown Glen Ellyn. The Rally is open to the public and free of charge.

Want to do more? Enroll your group or family in Sleep Out Saturday. It will be a life changing experience for you, and for the families you help. To learn more, visit the Sleep Out Saturday web site or contact Jennie at jennie.gates@bridgecommunities.org.

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