Sherry, who graduated from Matthew’s Hope Moving Forward Program in 2018, lived for two years in our Transitional Housing with her daughters Emily and Alivia, who has special needs. She worked at the Outreach facility and in the Hope Chest Shop during her time as a Guest. Sherry was featured in our Summer 2019 magazine just after her graduation. Moving Forward recently sat with her to get an update on her life.
(MF): It’s been four years since you graduated. How would you describe yourself now?
(S) I am much more confident! Matthew’s Hope taught me to be goal oriented, so I now set goals for myself and try to achieve them every day. Instead of living in the moment I am more focused on my retirement and am trying to prepare for Alivia’s future. I used to do everything for her because it was easier but now my goal is to make her independent and self-sufficient so now whenever I’m doing laundry, housework, or whatever, she’s right there with me and she’s doing it with me. It’s great for both of us.
One of the things you talked about in the Summer 2019 article is fear and how that emotion took you to a very dark place. In these four years since you left, have you encountered fear and how do you manage it differently?
Yes, I have, and I still do but I learned that I just have to walk through it. I have learned that I’ve been through so much that I now see myself as a stronger woman than I did before. Before I was in the program, I was in a group home and then I was married for 30 years. I had no sense of self as I saw life only through my husband’s eyes. I was never independent or self-sufficient. The program taught me how to take care of myself and appreciate myself. I know to be thankful for where I’m at even when I’m lacking in something because at least I’m not homeless. I’m no longer walking in fear because I can’t pay my bills, nor do I need a man to take care of me. I love this about me now.
What advice do you have for those who are in our program now---especially our single mothers?
Trust the advice that Scott and the staff provide. The journey will get worse before it gets better. And have a crock pot because you will never have enough time to cook! In my journey, I had to have a change of perspective. I had to learn how to overcome being a victim. I needed to conquer this program because I knew that this was my last chance.I had lost almost everything and the only thing I was going to lose next was my children. That thought brought me to my knees so when I got in the program, I really had to just sit and process what was being taught to me and try to do what they wanted me to do. I knew that I was going to have to dig my way out and that nobody was going to do it for me. I had to be the one to get up every morning and make sure that I met all the program expectations without making any excuses
I would also tell them to not give up on themselves and to show themselves some grace. I would tell them that they are going to make it; they must give the program a chance. Everyone at Matthew’s Hope is there to help you be successful. They will help you with your credit, they’ll help you find housing, they help you in many areas so instead of trying to be a fighter, work the program and recognize what it is going to do for you. I was homeless. And I had the choice to move forward or return to homelessness and risk losing my children. I could not bear that. I chose to work the program and I am so happy that I did!
To some of our Guests, the Matthew’s Hope Moving Forward Program may seem to have a very restrictive structure with too many rules and expectations. It seems like when you were in the program, you were frustrated with it. What are your thoughts about that now?
At the time I hated the program. I absolutely hated it. But it changed my life. I remember all the conversations I had with the staff. They made me angry with the rules and the endless expectations to attend classes and work. The volunteers will love and nurture you and do what mothers do to their children. Alternatively, Scott and the staff are going to demand you meet the requirements that everybody else in the world meets. For instance, you must pay your bills, buy your groceries, stay sober, take care of your family, etc. Who was I to not have those same responsibilities? But that was my mentality when I got in the program. The Matthew’s Hope staff did the tough love and I either needed to work the program or I would get kicked out. Scott was very straightforward with me and told me that I either do as he requires, or I leave. He gave me two simple options and it.
it was that tough love that got me on this path to success. Everybody else will love you, especially with having a special needs child. I could have played that card to the hilt, but I didn’t want to.
It took God first, then this program to help me move forward. I complained and whined to God. I hated Scott for making me work at the Hope Chest woodshop on a Sunday because I didn’t make my hours. I was crying as I worked on a dresser and asked God why they were being so mean to me. And in that moment on that day, I had a realization, and I carved a poem on a piece of wood that I gave to Scott. It is still in his office to this day. I stayed in this program for me and my children. It was tough. But I stayed and I grew, and I have continued to grow.