Experience and Insight

When I first came to On The Rise, there were instances where I felt an inch away from a nervous breakdown, like I wanted to lie down in the middle of the street and not get up. The service that helped me most was On The Rise. It was the first and only service that allowed me to be me. They learned about my hopes and goals and helped me step in the right direction. On The Rise saved my life.
— Natasha

Surviving, living and telling are essential for all of us to feel valued as individuals and to have impact in our community.  At On The Rise, we recognize the strength and unique experiences and insights of women who are homeless or in crisis. They bring incredible stories of survival, tenacity and hope. Within the supportive community of our Safe Haven, women frequently share real life reflections with staff. Many women also write creatively and participate in Voices Together, a weekly writing group that takes place in the kitchen at On The Rise.

Voices Together is a writing group of women that meets in the kitchen at On The Rise once a week to talk, share and write. The group is offered in partnership with the Center for New Words and has called themselves Voices Together.

Voices Together is a group of homeless and formerly-homeless women at On The Rise, who have come together to express their ideas through writing. We give voice to women whose experiences, creativity, and insights are often unrecognized and undervalued. Through various avenues of expression, we will offer insights into the reality of homelessness and provide an outlet for the voices of our experience.

To view recent writings, visit the Voices Together’s blog at http://voicestogether.blogspot.com/.

Voice

To express feelings
to let people know
what you’re thinking
to share wisdom
and knowledge
to spread happiness
and thoughtfulness
information

I Recall

I recall a time—
When TV was in black and white; 
When colors weren’t as vivid, or as many; 
When Ricky and Lucy slept in twin beds.

I remember a time— 
When the world seemed new
And I was adventurous; 
When people were love children.

I remember a time—
When government out of control
Was exposed.
Now corruption is covert.

I remember a time—
When everyone had
A home, an apartment, a kitchenette; 
When politicians made promises
Of a chicken in every pot
And a car in every garage.

I remember a time—
When the American dream was
Definable, nameable

Now, Americans are homeless, 
Sick, unemployed, in prison, 
Oppressed, spied on.

I long for a time
Reminiscent of time long ago.

— T.W. 7/18/06

Up and Up

So this is it
It's dark in the pit and cold too
My mind is spinning
My heart is beating
There's a lot of pressure on me
To see
My body wants to break free
Freedom is what I seek
From memories that refuse to
leave
I'm not a poet
I'm an artist
Shall I draw my path out of here?
Looking for the light and the colors
There's a fork in the road
Which way should I go? 
It's my choice
My pen will give me a voice... 

On Being Homeless…

"Being homeless is to know survival.  Day to day, one minute to the next, you have to prepare.  You have to always be thinking about where you are going to go, what are you going to take with you.  There is no set schedule, nothing can be counted on.  It's a hard process.”  

“I am homeless.  That is my appearance right now.  Under this costume, a lot of things are hidden inside of my heart and my mind.”  

“It could happen to anyone regardless of education, social, or economic status. You could be anyone. I have a doctorate degree. I am a professional woman. You can only ask your family for so much help. My mother is retired, my father is gone. You don’t want to make your family uncomfortable. You have to swim on your own.”  

“I think back to 1968 when I thought the world was wonderful. I don’t remember there being poverty and homelessness. I loved school and never missed a day. I would play with my friends and dream. I was very naïve and full of hope and loved to make people smile.”  

On Health…

“You want life to be as simple as A, B, C, but it never is. I have several serious health care needs and a physical medical problem that was long unattended to because I needed a home-base where I could make a lot of phone calls to make appointments and then receive calls back from the doctors.”  

“Back then the worst mental health issues you saw were “cutters”—women who take their mental anguish out on their arms. They weren’t trying to kill themselves, but they were in a lot of mental pain, so they would cut themselves because the physical pain was a distraction. These days, since I came back to On The Rise now in this big house, I see there are many more women with major mental illness here. You know, women who are really unstable and having conversations with themselves; maybe its schizophrenia or a personality disorder. It’s not their fault what’s going on in their head. You can’t take things they say or do personally. I’ve seen women like that hit rock bottom, but they can turn around. With the right help, like a place that’s safe and people who treat her with respect, and the right meds. But nothing can be forced on someone, if you really want it to be effective. Most of the time, her biggest need is attention and if she gets that over time, then it turns into a whole new ball game.”  

On Addiction…

“Basically I don’t think anybody wants to be an addict. When they are young it feels good, but when you’re older it gets harder to quit. I started out at age 13 with marijuana. My mother had passed away and my aunt used to always say that marijuana is a gateway drug. I never paid attention to her then. I was naïve, you know, they called it grass and I thought it smelled like grass. But then I had a lot of deaths in my family and there was a lot of peer pressure and I started popping pills. Right now I am addicted to crack. I know I’m covering something up with my addiction, hiding something. Maybe I should go to therapy to figure out what it is or check out different meetings to find out one that I’d be comfortable with to help me with my addiction. You know, I’m 44 now and I don’t want to be one of them old people I see out there still using drugs at 65 years old."

"On some days I can control the urge to use, especially if I have a lot of things to do. But it’s a long process to get clean and sober. You really have to want it and you have be doing it for yourself, not for anybody else. That’s a real must, plus faith in a higher power. You must be ready or it won’t last.”  

On How On The Rise Helped Them…

On The Rise gives you a vision of a real home, from the outside no one knows this place houses services for homeless women, it does not reflect poverty in any way.”  

“This past June, I was faced with fear, loneliness and an empty world as they opened the door of my cell in Framingham. I was incarcerated for drug charges. I’ve had a lifetime battle with drugs and alcohol abuse. I had burnt all of my bridges and found myself homeless, all alone and nowhere to go. I had gone from shelter to shelter, roaming the streets in hopes of finding some stability in my life. I had become hopeless, helpless, and afraid. During the summer, someone told me about On The Rise. Before long, I was one of the women who would be there on a daily basis."
 
"For the first time in a long time, I felt a part of a community. The women that run the home, from the fundraisers to the outreach workers, are the biggest blessing in my life. These women work with each of us women as a “whole” from inside to out. Simple things like a smile and a hug, encouraging us to eat so we get strong, clothing us, and giving me direction, tackling overwhelming wreckage of the past, and loving me for who I am. They brought hope when there was despair, faith when there was doubt, and joy when there was sadness. These women are truly a channel of God’s peace. If it wasn’t for the people who fund On The Rise or the great women who run it. I’d probably still be living on the streets, if not dead!"
 
"Today all my children are in my life and proud of mom. On The Rise got me situated in my own place, including things like sheets and a coffeemaker. My health is good. I have great people in my life. I’m still clean and sober and able to give of myself. Thanks to On The Rise.” 

“The people at On The Rise helped me get through painful tears and terrible fears. I stuck with life because for the first time I had people who really listened to me and stuck with me. WithoutOn The Rise, I don’t know where I would be.”  

“The benefit of having a legal person to talk to is that little things don’t become big things. Sometimes you need legal advice to give you the right sentences to handle situations in a non-threatening, effective and mutually pleasant manner.”  

“I need to surround myself with positive people, to rejoice in them. I need to connect with people in my field. That is why I love the Internet. I can send a message to someone on the other side of the world, instantaneous, and it’s free. I want to experience that connection. I am just warming up…like when I sing. I am just getting started, but I know I can sing with angels. I know it when I sing in the churches. I didn’t have that skill twenty years ago. That is why I come here, I know that if I gave a concert, people from On The Rise would come and celebrate my success. I know people will be listening. That is reciprocity.”  

On The Rise was not only a beacon of hope, but a life boat for the woman I was then- a woman whose daily fare was shame, despair and terror…You helped me face obstacles that really frightened me. You gave myself back to me. Such gifts are inestimable.”  

“She [the artist who leads the painting group] gives such good instructions and yet each of us in the group created something completely different and individual. I went to art school so it felt really good to get back in touch with this part of me. After everything that has happened, I often get stuck thinking about my terrible luck and the bad parts of my life…But while I was painting all of these memories came flooding back about the times when I was in school. Reconnecting with these good memories made me feel like I have missed a lot of opportunities in my life, but also made me want to look ahead.”