Shannon was one of our earliest participants at Homestead, before our screen team had learned from valuable experience. Shannon was sent to us by a judge in Kentucky. She was barely sober from meth. Shannon had long, dark blonde hair and a beautiful innocent face. She had lived with her elderly impoverished grandfather or out on the streets for much of her young life.
Shannon was needy, desperate to be loved. She was childlike herself, laughing and asking for hugs and soaking up attention. She loved the donations given to homestead, the cosmetics, clothes, and shoes. One day Shannon put on platform shoes and ran, ran down the cement steps and fell, laughing at the top of her lungs. Another day she dyed her hair blue in the middle of participating in support group.
Shannon didn’t stay very long at Homestead. She’d had a suicide attempt while with us and was sent for a short visit to the state hospital then back to Homestead heavily medicated. She couldn’t manage her emotions and would fly off into rages. She and another young woman, also not ready for the program, argued constantly. One day they fought physically in the back seat of the car. Sandy, the current house manager, stomped on the brakes and told them to get out of the car. They fought on the curb until the police came and threatened to arrest them all, including Sandy.
We had no other option than to send Shannon back to her grandpa in Kentucky. She kept in touch with some of us, volunteers and mentors and Deb, on and off for about a year. Once she messaged on facebook that her pimp had taken her to another state and she was in a shelter. We helped her get the bus back to her grandpa.
I’ll never forget the call I got from Deb while at work telling me that Shannon had died. Shannon had overdosed on heroin. I cried but I felt peace knowing that she was with her Heavenly Father. God must have thought she couldn’t do it, couldn’t experience any more pain here on earth. He took her home.
It seems fitting to write about Ashley today on the 3rd anniversary of her leaving us. Taken way too soon. So many loved her and miss her.
Ashley came to us having been rescued from being groomed for trafficking. She was so young, so naïve, so on fire for God. She had a heart for women who’ve been trafficked from the very beginning. Though she herself had been groomed, she wanted to minister to others. It took her awhile to accept that it almost happened to her.
Ashley started out as. “Know-it-all” preaching to all the women in the program. Then her pain hit. Her shame. We all watched her work through it, journaling, praying, leaning on others, participating in trauma therapy. I remember clearly the group where she integrated the woman of God she’d become and the lost foster child she’d been and the exploited woman she’d also been.
Ashley grew up so much at Homestead but she remained head strong. All of us “moms” gave her advice that she so often shrugged off. One of those times, she simply transferred her old license plate to a new car without registering it and didn’t get car insurance. We told her and told her to take care of it but she bulled on ahead without listening to us. She got a big ticket on a trip to Kansas City. Then she spent a long weekend in jail. Deb picked her up and she came out in her orange jumpsuit and shackles and fell into Deb’s arms. Of course, with Ashley’s positive attitude, she only saw the experience as God’s will since she gave her testimony and told another gal in jail about Homestead. (The gal did come to Homestead eventually and graduated).
Ashley was so full of life. She always had positive things to say, uplifting and encouraging others. There is a message on a white board on the side of the fridge at Homestead still there today that encourages and loves the girls.
The book She’s On Her Own is partially about Ashley. When writing it, the real Sophie pointed out one phrase that “Emma”/“Ashley” said sounded so cheesy. I had actually taken it from a saved text Ashley sent me, telling me how much I meant to her and how much I had changed her life. Ashley was constantly telling people this.
Ashley wrote such encouraging messages on her facebook wall too. Her bio reads, “Love without condition. Talk without bad intention. Give without reason. Care without expectation.” This is how she lived.
We had so many things we teased Ashley about. Her lime green sweaters and leopard shoes that she wore long before they were in style. She always had on scarves. She gained weight and wore the same clothes.
Ashley had an infectious laugh and a squeal that all of us who knew her can still hear in our heads. She loved big and lit up a room when she entered.
Ashley was desperate for love. She wanted a family that she lacked growing up. She had such hope in those she loved. When she moved, engaged to be married and pregnant, she was so happy and hopeful to have the life she always wanted. She believed that her boyfriend would give her all that she longed for. She shook off all warnings that those who met him gave her.
Ashley was taken too soon. Tragically, unfairly, murdered, both she and her unborn child. No one who knew her will ever quite get over this. The accused, her boyfriend, charged with double homicide, is still awaiting trial.
We choose to remember all the beauty and joy that Ashley brought to our lives. When I see pictures, I miss her, but I can hear her laugh and feel her positivity and joy. Rest In Peace, Ashley, know that you are loved and missed.