Jamie L. is a woman in her late 40s currently experiencing homelessness. She grew up with divorced parents and was their only child together. However, her mother and father were both married before, so she had 5 half-siblings that were much older than her. In fact, she was told that she was an "illegitimate" and an "affair child" all of her life because her dad supposedly had an affair with her mom. When Jamie was 40, she found out that that was not the case, however, it affected her for her entire life prior to that. Additionally, she grew up with a stepfather who sexually molested her from the age of 5 until she was 11, when she told her mother about the situation. This trauma caused her to struggle with PTSD and panic attacks throughout her life.
In 1995, about a year after Jamie graduated from high school, she had her son, Levi, at 19. Unfortunately, her sexual trauma led to drug abuse & Jamie lost custody of her son. However, she did everything she could to get her son back, such as going to rehab and moving into an "independent living environment," and she regained custody of her son! Jamie even met with someone at a crisis center to work through her trauma. After some time, she began speaking to parents about what to look for in children and how to catch sexual abuse as quickly as possible.
For the first year of Levi's life, Jamie was a photographer. She then started working at a daycare and became the director of a daycare center. She worked in daycare for 17 years and shared:
"[It's] my passion. I love kids. I don't care how sad you are, you can go into a room full of kids and they'll just go 'Ms. Jamie!! Ms. Jamie!!' like I'm some rockstar or something and it just brightens my life up. That's making a difference. That's putting something positive back into the world. Because, again, you don't know those kids' home lives; you don't have any idea. The hug you give them might be the only hug they'll get for the entire day. That lunch might be all that they get to eat until the lunch the next day."
After her son graduated high school, Jamie went to college so that she "could never worry about depending on a man again." She enrolled in school in January 2015 at the age of 40. However, on January 26, 2015, Jamie's mother got diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer. Jamie wanted to quit school to take care of her, but her mother wanted her to continue her education. So, Jamie went to school full-time while taking care of her mom until she passed on March 6, 2016. Jamie worked hard to graduate college in 2017 with two associate degrees in office administration and healthcare because she "wanted to make [her mother] proud."
Jamie then moved from Scottsboro, Alabama to Lincoln, Alabama for a fresh start. She lived there for 5 years and "made good money" as an executive administrative assistant to the CEO of a property management company. Unfortunately, Jamie found herself in an abusive relationship in Lincoln, which caused her to become extremely depressed & suicidal. However, on December 27, 2021, Jamie was told that she was going to be a grandmother! She was so excited and she decided to move out as quickly as possible. So, on January 19, 2022, Jamie moved in with her brother in Trinity, Alabama, which was just about 15-20 minutes from her son's new house.
All was well until July 2022, when Jamie's brother was diagnosed with small-cell lunger cancer. The cancer had spread to his brain and he had only 2 weeks left to live, so his daughter moved in and cared for him. This caused Jamie to have to quickly move out, and although it was reasonable for her niece to move in, it was a very difficult move for Jamie, as she had nowhere to go. This was the start of Jamie's experience with homelessness.
Jamie began moving from house to house, couch to couch, and even slept in her car some of the time. She had most of her stuff in her car which she shared: "was embarrassing when I went to job interviews and they saw everything in [my] car and it's obvious that [I] live out of my car. But, I walked in just like it wasn't anything."
In August of 2022, Jamie came to the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless in Huntsville, Alabama. She actually learned about the Coalition from a mom who took her son to the daycare center that she directed! After around two days of working with her amazing case manager, she got a part-time job! Then, 2-3 weeks later, she found a full-time job! Jamie now works her full-time job Monday-Friday and her part-time job for short hours on Saturday & Sunday.
Jamie shared that the reason why she wanted to share her story was that a coworker made a negative comment regarding individuals experiencing homelessness, unaware of Jamie's situation, and that "you don't know what someone has been through until you've walked in their shoes." She mentioned that she believes that this cause is extremely important and that giving people insight into the experience of our unhoused neighbors is amazing.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jamie. It is truly inspiring and I am so happy to have met such an incredible person like yourself! I also want to thank the NACH for partnering with Project WHY to allow more of our unhoused neighbors across the nation to share their stories :)
Click here to view Jamie's housing update as of February 2023!
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