Your Own Set of Keys
“The ache for a home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
– Maya Angelou
So, you've led a pretty good life. Maintained yourself, paid your bills, gone to work, maybe even raised a family. Always, at the end of the day you could go home, put a key in the lock, and enter a place of your own.
As the women and families that come through Abby's know, all of this can change in the blink of an eye.
Working with the women in the shelter is a humbling experience. Each time I open my door at home with my own key, I can't help but think about the women and children at the shelter struggling every day to get a key of their own.
Most of our shelter guests have keys of one type or another, but not one that opens a door to a place they can call home. She may have a car key. With a loss of income, unable to pay for insurance or gas, this car - which may have also served as a bedroom - is now more of a burden than an asset.
She may have a mailbox key. If she didn't, her mail would be scattered from place to place.
She may have a key to her luggage. Her luggage is most likely stored at different places or has been left behind at a friend's home. She locks it because she fears that other people will go through her belongings.
She may have a storage key. Furniture, pictures, everything, removed from her home, waiting for a time when she will be able to unpack it again. Sometimes, that time does not come and she ends up losing it all.
But what she longs for - and what each of us needs - is that key that you can put in your front door, that key that provides access to your own peace, your own sanctuary.
That longing can wear a person down. Rhonda's ache for a home of her own is so piercing you can see it on her face. Yet at age 26, after surviving foster care for 10 years, leaving a domestic violence situation and a life of uncertainty. Rhonda has finally given up. Searching endlessly for work and housing, her situation started to get the best of her, and her anger about all the injustices she has suffered started coming to the surface. One day, Rhonda didn't return to the shelter, leaving behind all of her things, leaving me to wonder and worry about her fate.
Kerry and her two children, Adam (10) and Sabrina (8), recently relocated from Orlando to Worcester for a new job and a new beginning. Last hired, Kerry was the first fired as the company struggled to survive. Kerry has nothing to return to in Florida and is unable to move in with her mother, who is living in subsized housing. Because the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) cannot verify her housing situation in Florida and because Kerry has not established residency in Worcester, she is unable to go into a family shelter. The children's father will take Sabrina but not Adam because he has a learning disability. Kerry does not want to be seperated from her children, or have them seperated from eachother. Kerry is out there on a daily basis looking for work. She is on the waiting list for the Interfaith Hospitality Network shelter, which is the only other shelter in Worcester that will take a family without approval from the DTA.
Glenda was with Abby's for 3 months when she finally got that key. The factory she'd worked at for 20 years moved out of state five years ago, and she has been searching for a job ever since. She has had some temporary positions, but has not been able to find anything permanent. Glenda finally received housing from WCHR and now has a safe place where she can go, as she is, unlock her door and not be questioned.
Dani has a key of her own after relocating to Worcester via a domestic violence shelter. Dani has no children. When you are in a domestic violence shelter, you cannot work or look for work - in fact, most times, you cannot leave the premises. After four months, she was really aching to get a job and begin her new life. She couldn't do that at the domestic violence shelter, so she transferred to Abby's House shelter. Dani is an artist. When she fled from her home, away from the life she knew, she left behind what little artwork had not been destroyed by the hands of someone she loved. Dani hadn't been able to pick up a paintbrush for awhile after coming to Worcester, but has recently begun making art again now that she has that key, that safe place that she can go.
The next time you use your key to unlock your front door, we hope that you will think of the women and children of Abby's House, who long for a place to call home.