Seeing isn’t always believing
It’s easy to judge a book by its cover. We do it every day. When you look at Michelle, what do you see?
Would it surprise you to know Michelle has obtained degrees in Psychology and Music from schools like Bob Jones University, East Carolina University, Berkley School of Music and Boston University? Would it surprise you to know Michelle worked 15 years in the field of psychology helping children with emotional disturbances? Would it surprise you to know Michelle is now blind, homeless and living at the Nashville Rescue Mission? Surprised?
Originally from North Carolina, Michelle came from a wealthy family. She spent summers volunteering at a home for troubled kids in her town. This inspired her to go to school to study Psychology and pursue a career helping children in need.
Michelle married and had three children: two boys and one girl. Her husband was successful in his job, but it required a lot of moving around. Michelle started her own business and was able to homeschool her children or put them in private schools depending on where they lived.
World Turned Upside Down
“Eight years ago everything changed,” recalls Michelle. “It was Halloween and we had been out trick or treating. We were a close family and enjoyed spending time together. We had a lot of fun that night. The next morning my husband got up to go to work just like any other day. He kissed me goodbye, told the kids he loved them and went to work. He never came back.”
Michelle’s husband disappeared leaving Michelle in shock, her children devastated and the family struggling to survive. As if that wasn’t bad enough, in 2004 Michelle was involved in a serious car accident that resulted in a spinal cord injury.
“What do you do when you only have $58?”
From Bad to Worse
“Following the accident, things got worse,” says Michelle. “I had multiple herniated disks in my back and I had trouble swallowing. I couldn’t work. I learned my husband was moving from state to state making it difficult to track him down for child support. His parents refused to help us. Being an only child, I didn’t have any siblings to turn to for help. My father had passed away years ago and my mother was gravely ill needing every dime she had to pay for her own medical care.”
Michelle didn’t have a lot of options, but she did what she could to provide for herself and her kids. Her mother passed away a year ago. Her oldest son, now 20 years old moved to Tennessee to attend college, so Michelle decided to move to Tennessee to be near her son.
“We were blessed when we learned my son was receiving enough in scholarships and grants to attend college,” proudly says Michelle. “He’s very smart and doing very well in school.”
Michelle’s health began to deteriorate. Her struggle with diabetes was taking a toll on her body, leading to extreme neuropathy in her hands and feet, as well as kidney failure. Michelle was also diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t work at all,” says Michelle. “I lost my insurance making it harder to get the medical care I needed. I was able to get on TennCare, but that doesn’t cover a lot of what I need. I’ve lost my sight and need to see an Ophthalmologist, but it isn’t covered and I can’t afford it.”
Nowhere to Go
On July 1, 2011, Michelle was unable to pay her bills and facing eviction from her apartment. “What do you do when all you have is $58?” asks Michelle. “I didn’t have any family to turn to. We hadn’t lived in Nashville very long, so I didn’t have any friends to turn to either. On July 24 we were evicted. I’d never been in this situation before. I asked our landlord if she knew of someplace we could go and she told me about the Nashville Rescue Mission.”
“I was overwhelmed with joy when I learned the Mission was a Christian organization,” says Michelle. “This place has been a blessing to me and my kids. I know they were shocked when we first got here. No one ever expects to be homeless and in desperate need of help. But they’re doing great. They’ve adjusted and are thriving despite our situation.”
“I get so much out of this place. I hope someday I’ll be able to give back to those who have so graciously helped my family and me.”
Currently, Michelle is receiving no assistance. She has applied for disability, food stamps and housing assistance, but the process is lengthy and the wait is long. In the meantime, Michelle still looks for work, but it’s an uphill battle considering the economy as well as all her medical conditions.
“I want to be able to take care of my own babies,” says Michelle. “They’re not little anymore, but they’ll always be my babies. For now, I know I’m not able to do it on my own. I’m just grateful we have a safe place to stay, food to eat and receive spiritual nourishment on a daily basis. In terms of the future, not sure what it holds. I would like to go back to school and finish my music degree. Maybe that would open some doors. I’m also praying for housing that will accept someone like me who has disabilities as well as children. I’m trusting God to provide.”