Jennifer's Story

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I was homeless and I lost custody of my kids back in 2013. And I just had another baby a few months ago, but they took her from me at the hospital because of my past and I had nowhere to go. I did the Mothering Heights program. I should have had myself together, but I was still using in my pregnancy, so they reported me to CPS. I was so deep into my addiction, I didn’t even care. They were paying for services and trying to help me and I just blew it. I went back to using. I felt hopeless. I felt irresponsible, like I should have had my stuff together.

So, I ended up at the shelter after I had my daughter. I didn’t really want to go back to using because that’s what drove me to being homeless to begin with. I just wanted to be part of my daughter’s life. So I needed to stay away from the people that I knew because all those people were all users.

I should probably have been in the shelter to begin with. But I’m still glad that I’m here because I do feel like if I would have had her and done like a short 6 month program that wouldn’t have been enough because I’ve done programs in the past where they were only like 30 or 60 days and the first thing I did as soon as I walked out was going back to using.

The main difference in those programs is they don’t put God in it. Life Change Academy is spiritually based, but the other programs I’ve done are more like the 12 steps and Narcotic’s Anonymous and meetings, but that wasn’t enough for me.

Here at House of Hope, I’m learning how to heal from a lot of my traumatic experiences. I’m learning new techniques, like how to humble myself about things and how to be open about most of the tragedies I’ve experienced and how they all lead to my anxiety. I’ve had depression before. They just teach me a lot about all the old wounds that I haven’t been able to heal and for a long time I had forgotten about all the bad stuff that had happened to me and why I’m even the way that I am. 

I’m learning how to open up and to be a little bit more comfortable with that. Trusting in the Lord to guide me and that I do have forgiveness, where I used to think before that I wasn’t worthy of it. I thought I was just going to be the way that I was forever.

When I was younger I was connected with God and I always knew there was a path that I had to follow, but then when I stopped being connected to God, my whole world flipped upside down. There were no rules or boundaries or anything. 

Now, I don’t feel as broken. I don’t feel like there is an empty space inside me. I feel complete and more alive; where as before I was just spiritually dead. I felt empty and I think that’s what drove a lot of my depression. But now I feel whole, I feel loved.

Ryan Stillwater

Ryan is a longtime Visalian — a graduate of Redwood High School and Fresno Pacific University with a bachelors degree in Christian Ministries. Intrigued by the partnership between the Visalia Rescue Mission and the City of Visalia, Ryan began putting his vision on paper as VRM's Oval Venue Coordinator in August 2013, and has sparked the interest of many throughout the community. Ryan and his wife Amy (a Mt. Whitney High School graduate) have been married for seven years and have three amazing kids — ages 6, 4, and 4.