Sara Gabriel lived for 25 years in the depths of addiction and grips of mental health. In the last five years of darkness, she was living in a tent, separated from the son she loved. She was eating out of trashcans and only had four teeth left in her mouth. Her life was utterly unmanageable from the inside out.
Her bottom came when she could no longer live with herself. The hope of maybe seeing her son again and being a Mom gave her the will to go to a drug rehabilitation center. There, she grabbed hold of a 12-step program. Sara had fallen face first, and she had to learn how to let other people lovingly help her get back up. After rehab, she took the suggestion to go to a sober living house. She aspired to bring her son with her, but she could not. Completing the sober living program and intensive outpatient gave her a firm foundation for her recovery, but it did not give her what she dreamed of most: a place of her own with her son.
On her son’s fourteenth birthday, she went to the house of his father and asked if she could see her son. To her surprise, she received the gift of being with her son again. Since she was renting a room at Rapid Rehousing, her son could not come to live with her, but it did not stop Sara from doing everything she could to support her son. She would go grocery shopping for him and ride her bike to the laundry mat to do his laundry.
Sara pleaded with her caseworker to help her find a way so she and her son could reunite in a home of their own. Her caseworker was an alumnus of HomeLight Family Living program, and she suggested Sara apply for the program. Sara credits the steps of recovery with her willingness to be honest and transparent in the HomeLight Family interview. Overhearing the talk, the director of HomeLight accepted her on the spot. On December 8, 2018, for the first time in years, she and her son were living under the same roof.
The father of Sara’s son had not enrolled him in school, so her first task was to get him enrolled in school. The two of them put in a lot of work to build trust between them. HomeLight and the services provided gave them the safety net they needed to build through mistakes made. They were able to heal from the pain of the past. HomeLight Family Living has given them great hope for their future together.
Gratitude is an action word for Sara. She loves being able to help the other women at HomeLight, whether it is helping with her neighbor’s babies or having an ear to listen; she believes they are all there for a reason. Sara cherishes the bonds she has made, saying they are connected by a shared empathy and understanding of going through the same circumstances. She loves to watch others come into the program, rise up, and grow.
Her gratitude does not end at HomeLight. Today, Sara is a Pier Bridge helper with SHARE (Self-Help and Recovery Exchange). She brings help and support to those suffering with homelessness. Sara says she has used every life experience she has had to help someone else today. She meets people where they are, listens to their goals, and helps them take steps to achieve them. Sara reminds her clients that homelessness is just a chapter in their book, not their whole book. She is there to help them start a new chapter just as others had done for her.
Upon graduating from the program, Sara plans to move into a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment and continue her work. She has finally found her purpose in life: to help others through her own experience.