-by Heather Ann White
When Brenda Carter came to PNS’ Lowdon-Schutts women and children’s building in 2006, her life was in ruins.
She and her 11-year-old son had been kicked out of her long-time boyfriend’s home, and he had taken her car and money.
She and her son were homeless and she didn’t think it could get worse – but it did. After staying at the Shelter for a few months, Brenda, then 42, started to have debilitating migraine headaches, which had been recurring on and off since she was in a car accident when she was 21.
No over-the-the counter medications were helping so one night she asked a friend at the Shelter for help.
“I had no doctor and no health insurance,” she said. “Once a girl had given me some pain pills, so I asked her for some again, only this time she said she had something better.”
It was a capsule of heroin. Naïve about drugs, Brenda snorted the powder and began her yearlong addiction.
“I had no idea what it was,” Brenda said. “All I wanted was for the pain to go away and in about 15 minutes it did. I felt great. I asked the girl what it was and she when she told me heroin I couldn’t believe it, but I didn’t stop there.”
Brenda continued to snort the drug and was up to eight to 12 capsules per day.
It was then when a PNS case manager, Teresa Holmes, stepped in to help Brenda. Teresa, now the program manager for the Lowdon-Schutts building, encouraged Brenda to enter into a detox and rehabilitation program across the street from the Shelter and arranged for childcare for Brenda’s son.
After 32 days, Brenda returned to the Shelter.
“Going to rehab was horrible – I was so sick, it was the worst sick ever and everything hurt,” she said. “But I think worse than that was telling my son that I had done drugs. The look on his face was horrible and knowing that I had let him down was more painful than anything.”
Brenda vowed that she would stay clean and create a better life for her son. She took advantage of every opportunity available at the Shelter, she said, such as counseling, substance-abuse counseling and help with her depression. In 2007, she was offered a part-time job at the Lowdon-Schutts building working as a client services assistant and then applied for housing. In 2008, she was promoted to a client services specialist, managing the front-desk staff and helping with day-to-day operations in the Shelter. She and her son, now 14, live in a two-bedroom townhouse. She has been clean for more than two years and still works at the women and children’s building.
“It took a number of months and a lot of hard work on Brenda’s part, but today she has completely changed her life,” Teresa said. “Because of her past experiences and positive attitude she is able to give back to current residents and encourage them to become self-sufficient.”
Brenda said that she couldn’t have overcome her drug problem and abusive past without the help of PNS.
“I can’t tell you how grateful I am to PNS,” she said. “There was warmth and caring here and I knew that my child and I were safe. The case managers helped make me confident, gave me faith and made me a better person. They saw past the drugs and to the real person and I can’t ever repay them for that.”