Written by Hayley Ruffner
We have known Jeanette for 2 years now. We met her on the streets outside Austin Street Center and began to form a friendship with her. We were first drawn to her contagious laughter and giant smile.
One of our first encounters with Jeanette was during a pop-up barber shop we hosted on the streets. Jeanette hung out with us and danced and laughed to the music playing on the boombox. During her homelessness, she has stayed at Austin Street Center, as well as bouncing around from time to time to other homeless shelters in the city. She has also spent some nights sleeping on the DART rail.
As we continued to come out to the streets week after week, we began to talk with Jeanette more about what she wanted and what her goals were. We tried to offer some different solutions or help 2 years ago, but at that time, she wasn’t ready to take a step.
As we built trust with Jeanette, she shared with us that she often dealt with frustration and feeling disrespected by others through anger - fighting physically and/or verbally with others. We continued to love her and befriend her, hoping a day would come when she was ready to seek help.
About 3 months ago, Jeanette began saying how she needed a change in her life. She needed purpose. Her ways weren’t working for her anymore. She was ready to do something different. We offered her an interview at Bonton Farms. She would simply need to show up on the street corner at a certain day and time, and we would be there to pick her up.
She showed up that morning like she said she would. We explained to her how this would be a whole-person restoration type of approach program—physical, mental, and spiritual. We asked her to be willing and open to work on herself, her anger, her relationship with others, and her relationship with God. She was all in.
Jeanette has worked at Bonton Farms now for a little over 2 months. We have seen a willingness to hear feedback and an openness to learn Biblical ways of dealing with emotion and anger. She has faithfully shown up to work. She has been honest and vulnerable with us the entire time, even recently owning her part in the anger she has displayed.
She has been attending counseling through Momentous Institute. She is going to Anger Management classes. We meet with her weekly to surround her with love and community. She offers us her trust and affection.
We teach her practical things like budgeting and setting up voicemail on her phone. We attend appointments at Parkland or the food stamp office together. We help guide her in prayer, Scripture reading, and what a daily relationship with Christ can look like on earth.
She wants a new way of life because she is the first to say what she has done on her own hasn’t worked for so long now. Her honesty encourages us to examine our own lives, assess what unhealthy patterns aren't working for us, and lean on community to guide us. Together, we pursue Christ-likeness.
A new way for Jeanette has looked like the steps we are currently taking and it also looks like a safe place to call her own. A home. Two weeks ago, Jeanette was chosen to be the first tenant from The Human Impact to move into our collaborative housing project with Bonton Farms. It was a beautiful morning of new hope, God's faithfulness, and celebration of Jeanette's hard work.
We will continue to walk alongside Jeanette and support her as she begins this new chapter in her life. Jeanette is a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister, a child of the King, and she is our friend. We are committed to her for the long haul, and look forward to watching her grow over the next weeks, months, and years.
To hear Jeanette’s contagious laughter and to get a glimpse into how she felt about her new home, check out our video below.