Donna and JB

I’d been at Franklin Women’s Shelter and was feeling depressed and down. I was sitting in the corner and didn’t have a sense of direction or know which way to go. I had been working in home care, and my last client was a live-in situation, but after that client passed I couldn’t stay there and had to stay in a shelter. I didn’t know what to expect. All that I knew was very negative.

The day after I got there, right after breakfast, I was just sitting and waiting for my intake appointment. I didn’t know the area, and I was scared. I was waiting for my number to be called for intake and heard people praising God in the next room. You know how you always hear church music… sometimes you pay no mind, but this time I felt in my spirit that it was real and that it was something I could identify with. And that’s where I met Debbie Canty, Debbie Byrd, JB, and Joe. When I saw them there just praising God, that was when I knew it was for real. I felt that I was in the right place. It was like my old skin fell off me, I became alive, and I felt so good after that. I enjoyed it.

Debbie told me they were there every Thursday, and being there with them, I started feeling good about myself. They brought some food with them. Easter had just passed, so they had donuts, candy, juice—it was nice. I stayed and got the Daily Word, and I felt good for the rest of the week. It gave me determination and a sense of direction. I stopped feeling like I was just dumped there and left alone. Nobody knew my situation, but after joining the groups I felt good.

The next week I was moved from Franklin, and I was disappointed. They sent me to Lenox Hill, and again I was depressed and very down. When Thursday came, I debated whether I should go back to Franklin for the group again. But then Diane and Jimmie came in, and I realized that LEFSA is also at Lenox Hill! And I just flourished from then on. Getting involved in LEFSA was meaningful, purposeful. I got to go on the retreat back in April 2016. It was like, wow, that was real soul-searching, getting all that stuff out of me, and learning. I felt good about myself. My real smile came back.

When I first went to the Women’s Group I was so drawn to the positivity and seeing that they are people like me. I didn’t have to be ashamed, just hearing people’s stories. Many people won’t understand, and a lot of things can be hidden or covered up, but through LEFSA you can uncover that. I have no regrets about how my life turned out and why I had to go to Lenox Hill. I had to talk about what was happening, how I was feeling, things that I was covering up.

LEFSA has all of the components—Women’s Group, Leadership Study Day—so you can intermingle with people who have been through the same things. And that’s how I got involved in the EOP (Education Outreach) program. That put the icing on the cake, that really had me digging. That was good, coming back and learning about my peers, forming that bond.

Debbie told me that JB (James Butler) helps people with housing, and I made an appointment. He told me what to bring in—my documents and a list of information I would need. I would come in once a month and fill out all of the applications he had before the deadline. As you do the applications, he checks them to make sure they are filled out correctly. He makes copies of everything to go with your packet and gives you envelopes, stamps, etc. That’s why LEFSA gets people into housing placements. What else can they ask for? You keep your appointments and do your paperwork. JB is very attentive.

I did that for a couple of months, and in January 2018 they told me that I had been selected. I told JB I was feeling a little down, because when I applied I was in a shelter, and I left and got a room and knew I no longer qualified for SEPS (housing subsidy voucher). He really encouraged me to go for my interview anyway. I got it despite the obstacles because if they call you for the interview you basically get the apartment. I told them that my SEPS expired, and they told me to renew it because they pulled my application out based on SEPS. Then they gave me a letter to ask for a renewal. It was phenomenal. I moved in February 2018.

  1. February 3, 2019

    What a beautiful story. I knew about LEFSA when I lived in New York and I think it is such a great thing.

    Wishing Donna the best.

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