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. (Post written by Diane Clark)
Ashley Inspired Sophie
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. (Post written by Diane Clark)
It’s a calling. A mission. A sacrifice. Both an incredibly demanding and rewarding experience. House Manager for Homestead Ministries.
Sandy was our first house manager. A beautiful person in her 60’s, single, with a supportive family. Sandy felt called to give of herself in the live-in 24/7 full time non paid role to make a difference. And she did.
Sandy is one of the most loving people on the planet. She held the girls, day or night when they needed held. She listened and loved. She spoke truth, often bluntly but always lovingly.
Early on, we had very dysregulated women, not ready for the program whose emotions could snap without warning. Sandy called me one day as I was filling in for Deb, and said, “I need you to come over here right away. These girls are arguing and threatening to hurt each other. I told them, ‘you lay a hand on each other, I will take you out.’” I asked Sandy what she expected me to do, it sounded like she had everything under control.
Sandy served Homestead for 5 years until she developed health problems that made it impossible to continue. We were so very blessed for her time at Homestead.
After Sandy came Veronica. Veronica was a more mature graduate that demonstrated the stability to hold several jobs and stay sober. She stepped into the role that offered only room and board. Veronica organized the girls and started a chore chart. On the surface, it appeared she was managing well. Sadly, She was not as ready as we hoped and led the girls into unhealthy situations and use of alcohol. She was removed suddenly, saddening and disappointing all of us. (I am happy to report that today, Veronica continues her recovery journey on her own and keeps in touch with many of us).
It was then decided to put Ashley, another graduate of Homestead, in the role, and have her raise missionary funds to support herself. She was very young. Though Sandy didn’t have high standards for cleanliness or meals and tended to watch a lot of TV when not running the girls around for appointments, Ashley, like Veronica, chose to be friends with the girls. Many attempts were made to organize a calendar and chore list. Ashley simply loved and encouraged the girls. She prayed with them and mentored them. Unfortunately, Ashley’s immaturity and youth led to poor decisions. We discovered later that she had partied with the girls and that she gave in to temptations sexually seeking the validation and love she was desperate for. As we transitioned Ashley out, we again found ourselves in the position of finding a House Manager.
The Board recognized that 24/7 week after week wasn’t good for anyone, leading to high stress, health issues, and burn out. No one person could carry out this role. The board voted to change the position to two people, on a week at a time and off a week and to make the position paid in addition to room and board.
Dacia and Jenn were the first applicants accepted. Jenn is a single gal who ran the Journey House in Salina. She had life experience of addition recovery and was the perfect person for the position. Jenn found the balance between supporter and rule enforcer. The girls trusted her and followed her directions. She mentored the girls and held boundaries.
Dacia is also a single gal, young, who has a giant heart for the Lord and for serving. Dacia had a lot to learn but stepped up to the challenge and became a strong, positive influence as House Manager.
Both Jenn and Dacia stayed in the position as long as they could. Jenn, going back and forth between the two houses, needed a break and stepped down to begin he preparation work to be home manager for the Salina chapter. Dacia continued on as was joined by another graduate, Alicia.
Alicia had been a house manager in a previous program out of state before relapsing and coming to Homestead. She did fabulous job of finding the needed balance, supporting and mentoring the girls, reading between the lines, holding boundaries and enforcing the necessary guidelines and rules.
When Alicia got married and left the State, Erica, yet another graduate stepped up. Erica had stepped into a leadership program at another program out of town but quickly jumped into the role at Homestead, eager to give back. Erica, like many of the house managers before her, has had a lot to learn but easily fell into the support role. She remains house manager now.
Dacia left the program to explore other personal options so Rachel, who serves in the role of volunteer coordinator on her off weeks for Homestead, stepped into the role. Rachel, a trafficking survivor herself, does an amazing job of not taking any nonsense, organizing and mentoring the girls and earning their respect.
Homestead currently has one position open for house manager in Salina. We have some folks who are shadowing and praying about the position.
It isn’t an easy job. But like every position with Homestead, the blessings are beyond measure. Having the honor of walking alongside the courageous survivors and being a part of their journey toward healing is humbling and rewarding. We are so grateful for all the house managers who have stepped into this role and given of themselves so selflessly. ((Post written by Diane Clark)