I was 18 when my mom died and left me to take care of my 14-year-old sister. I had experienced depression throughout my youth, but I didn’t know it at the time.
I went to college. I spent the first year in a dorm; the second year, I got an apartment for me and my sister. I didn’t finish school. It was too much to handle. I had to take care of my little sister, I had no money, and my mental illness was growing worse.
Since my 20s, I became homeless off and on. Between the loss of my mother and the onset of my schizophrenia, I was unable to take care of myself. The illness keeps you so distracted, you can’t focus on what’s actually going on. I couldn’t think. I didn’t have common sense. I remembered where some food was but not how to get it.
While I was homeless, I slept on trains or stayed with family and friends. I couldn’t get housed because of my credit and criminal history. I started staying at shelters, but I didn’t like the people. I felt taken advantage of.
Then I found Sarah’s Circle and got housed through the Permanent Supportive Housing program. Without mental stability, I can’t enjoy my life. Privacy is important for someone with mental illness. I am constantly checking in with myself, making alterations to my environment to make sure everything is okay. I can cook my own meals so I eat healthier. My personal hygiene is better being in my own space. When I go to my unit, I can have my quiet time… not like at a shelter.