Angel, a native Oklahoman, was a mere twelve years old when she slipped out of the only place she called home and into the unknown. For five years, each day was a struggle for hope, a struggle for survival, as she endured the unforgiving reality that her stepfather’s sexual abuse was shattering her. “I had to get out,” she said with determination.
Not even a teenager, yet, Angel dug deeper into survival mode as a young girl on the streets. “I spent the next six years, in and out of the system – child welfare – until I was too old for it,” she explained. Instead of cultivating lifelong friendships with classmates, she roamed the world alone. Instead of earning gas money at an after school job, she numbed her pain with drugs. And instead of crawling into a bed worn to her shape each night, she found shelter in abandoned buildings.
For Angel, surviving her childhood was a revolutionary act.
Last year, our Street Outreach team met Angel at a local shelter. Desperation wrapped in fear – both cloaked in addiction – she was alone and lonely. Our boots-on-the-ground team understands the importance of building trust, and that’s where they began. They treated her with dignity, with kindness, with respect, and most importantly, they made sure their actions aligned with their words.
As Angel’s confidence in us grew, so did her confidence in herself.
With the MHAOK team beside her, Angel took her first step toward wholeness. And then another and another and another. She began to believe that she could create a life she loves with action, agreeing to in-patient addiction recovery service at the center we recommended. She began mental health care treatment, which afforded her the tools to process a lifetime of anger and trauma so she could stabilize. She worked eagerly with her case manager to secure the vital documents so many of us take for granted – documents necessary for benefits, for work, for a place to call home.
With her commitment to action and hope – and with our support – Angel trekked forward, earning her General Education Diploma (GED), obtaining employment and, soon after, accepting a promotion. She is currently working on her Certified Nurse’s Aide license – a path well-suited for a young girl with astounding strength and compassion. Angel has severed unhealthy relationships to make room for more nourishing ones, and she’s able to proceed a little more gently in life.
Together, we ended Angel’s time on the streets in October. It was a privilege to walk across the bridge from homelessness to housing with Angel, healing a little bit more each day. “Now I’m actually happy for my life,” she asserts through a smile.