The following letter was written by Laura Milcarzyk, a client who has graduated from the program at Harford Family House and spoke at the organization’s prayer vigil last Tuesday. Joyce Duffy, ED/CEO Harford Family House, provided the letter and said Milcarzyk hopes that her story will help those who oppose building or expanding shelters to serve the homeless in our area, to understand that homeless people have value, and with support can change their lives and become productive members of the community. Harford Family House has another prayer vigil scheduled for Tuesday at 7:30pm at Mt. Zion Church in Churchville:
On Tuesday, September 08, 2015, I was invited to attend a prayer vigil called, Hope for the Homeless. The prayer vigil was a response to the recent conflict in Edgewood concerning the need to provide shelter for that community’s homeless population before the coming winter season. The group consisted of Pastors from around the county, including Mountain Christian, St. James AME Church, Word of Faith Church, Greater Grace of the Chesapeake, Havre de Grace UMC, Grove Presbyterian Church and others. Two points were evident among this circle of clergy. One was their deep heartfelt concern for those living out in the elements in during the coming cold season. The second was a humble plea for wisdom and guidance in finding the right solution. The seeking for God’s wisdom will continue next Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 7:30, when we will hold another prayer vigil for Hope for the homeless at Mt. Zion UMC on Rt.22 in Churchville.
For those who wonder who homeless people are, and how they become homeless, here is my story:
On May 31, 2009, I took one last look around my home, the place I had spent the last ten years. My four year old was already in the car, buckled into his car seat, a bag for each of us on the seat next to him.
The night before a woman on the SARC helpline, after assessing that I was not in any immediate danger, asked me to wait until morning to leave. After my husband had left for work, she told me, I was to drive to a parking garage in Bel air, leave my car there, and walk to the police station located on Main Street. An officer would then escort me to the SARC safe house.
As I locked the door, I knew there would be no going back. I was terrified in equal parts, to stay or go. I was fearful of what my husband might do because of my leaving him and taking our son. I did not how we were going to survive or where we were going to live. My paychecks never being my own, I had no money for an apartment. I was a food service worker, with no education, no self-confidence, depression and extreme anxiety issues.
One thought moved me forward. What future lay in that house for me and my son. Was the drinking, the drugs, the violence, the poverty, the overwhelmingly constant fear, what we would have to deal with for the rest of our life? I locked the door and did not look back. I was officially homeless.
The homeless all have different stories to tell and different challenges to overcome. Their cries for change are real, although many do not see it as such. Often times, those who are living in poverty, addicted to drugs and alcohol and are homeless are doing so because they know no other way. They have no understanding, nor do they have the ability and/or skills needed to survive in a “normal” environment. Their cries for change are real, only they do not know how to get out of the cycle they are in, to a place of real success and victory over their situations.
For me the SARC safe house was a simply one step, one group of people reaching their hand down to help me rise up. I was also surrounded by church family, by counselors, and placed in a transitional housing program. The road before me was long and arduous, but I was not alone.
The staff at Harford Family House, my apartment sponsor, my pastor, all the business’, organizations, churches, and private citizens were a support, a foundation for me to begin rebuilding mine and my son’s life, to give us a better future, to become contributing citizens in Harford County. Having a shelter improves the quality of life not just for the homeless, but for the community. Caring for the suffering of the people around you is good for the community’s soul.
I still live at Harford Family House as a regular renter, and serve as a volunteer. This past spring I graduated from Harford Community College, and am now attending Towson State University. I am so grateful for the support I received and for the hope that I have for the future. I hope this kind of support can be available to all of those experiencing homelessness in Harford County.