SHAWL has seen homeless and addicted women in need respond positively to a supportive, structured counseling and case management program specifically designed to meet their needs. Over the last 6 years, we have demonstrated a success rate of 63% based on a women remaining clean and sober for two years or more after graduating from SHAWL’s primary program and living in our transitional housing program.
Each woman has a story upon entering SHAWL. We acknowledge and respect each woman’s story and understand that it is an important part of her growth and development. We celebrate each woman’s journey and would like to share with you some amazing woman.
“Alicia” was the oldest of three children in a household where her mother was an alcoholic and her father was absent from the house. While living in this household, when “Alicia” was around five, she began experiencing sexual abuse. At this time, her dad kidnapped her and her siblings and they lived with him for a period of time. After two years, he returned the children back to their alcoholic, abusive mother. The sexual abuse that “Alicia” endured became worse and was at the hands of uncles and her mother’s bosses. The people that were suppose to protect her – turned the other way. The sexual abuse continued for years as well as the verbal and physical abuse from her mother. In order to cope, Alicia began drinking and taking drugs at the age of fifteen. A turning point occurred one night when her mother was drinking and became very angry. “Alicia” took the brunt of her mother’s rage and she told her mother that she hated her. She was beaten more severely. “Alicia” decided she needed to move out and she moved in with her father. At the time, her father was a drug dealer and would often ply her with drugs. At the age of sixteen, she was raped by her father who told her “I wanted you to know how to please a man.” “Alicia’s” father died shortly after and she went back to her mom’s house because she couldn’t take care of herself. Her life continued to unravel – she met a man who was an IV drug user and began doing IV drugs for the next 8 years. During this time, she gave birth to a daughter. When her daughter was three, “Alicia” lost custody of her. “Alicia” fought back by admitting herself to a one-year residential treatment facility where she became substance free and earned a license as a psychiatric technician. She regained custody of her daughter by the time her daughter was 4 and a half years old. “Alicia” met her husband – the love of her life and was living a productive, substance free life. As time went on, she thought she would be able to drink, she began drinking occasionally. Alicia suffered a work injury and became dependent on prescription drugs. Then, tragedy struck when her husband died. “Alicia” spiraled downward into hard core drug use for the next 6 years. At the time she and her daughter became homeless and both using substances. Both suffered trauma while they were on the streets. Her daughter became pregnant and eventually gave birth to a baby boy. At this time, “Alicia” decided to get help for herself, her daughter and the baby. “Alicia” was scared – she wanted to get back what she had but she was scared to quit the drugs. She found her way to SHAWL- Support for Harbor Area Women’s Lives. Her image is still so vivid in our minds- a scared, addicted, homeless survivor with no place to go. She settled into SHAWL and graduated from the primary program after 6 months. Today, she is a resident of Haviland House while she is going to school full-time to become an R.N. and she is also working as a home companion aid. She is active in the SHAWL Alumni Association where she stays in contact with other Alumni and works to help fund raise for residents in our primary program. She is active in the NA Fellowship.
“Alicia” enjoys spending time with her daughter and her grandson who is a thriving second grader who keeps his grandma busy when he visits her. “Alicia” is actively teaching him basketball. She and her daughter share many good times together – taking him to Disneyland; spending good, quality, substance-free, violence-free time with each other. “Alicia” stands tall today with bright eyes that say she has a future. Her smile is infectious; her soul is grounded and calm. She is a woman of dignity today – looking forward to her bright future.
“Elise” was born into an addicted family as the middle child of seven. Both parents used drugs and the father dealt in drugs. He was physically and verbally abusive to everyone in the family. “Elise” learned from early childhood that she had to fend for herself and younger siblings. Her mother tried to stop using drugs but eventually had to be hospitalized for a serious breakdown and did not return to the family. “Elise” didn’t have a family structure to guide her. So, by age 12 she was using alcohol and drugs and involved in gang life. At this time, she felt that the gang cared for her more than her biological family. She dropped out of school at age 15 and began living with the gang. She did whatever the gang told her to do, including selling drugs, stealing, and prostitution. She was arrested and placed in jail at age 16, where she was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
Before release from jail she wrote a letter to SHAWL asking to enter the program. Initially, she had serious adjustment problems, but eventually realized she should change her life choices. After six months “Elise” graduated from SHAWL, moved to Haviland House, and began school, which she continued. After one year at Haviland House, she moved into an apartment with three other women and began to work part-time. She proceeded with nurses training and is now working full-time at a local hospital. She continues to attend 12-step meetings and participates in the SHAWL Alumni Group.
Names were changed to protect the confidentiality of our graduates