Jenn (pictured right above holding her dog Chloe) grew up in what she described as a “pretty amazing family.” She spent most of her childhood working on farms and discovered a special love of horses. Jenn trained show and race horses and also witnessed the therapeutic nature of the animals. “We would work with kids who had experienced multiple strokes and lived with autism. You could tell when they got onto the horse to ride, that both the child and the animal would change, and they would both become calmer.”
Up until her teens, life was going well for Jenn. However, things began to go south when she started taking recreational drugs which eventually led to opiate abuse, including heroin. In her early twenties, Jenn married her high school sweetheart Bob and the two got sober for a few years. Eventually, Bob started taking pills again and hanging out with a new crowd of people who were heavy drug users. At first, it was recreational but soon morphed into dependence. Bob began injecting heroin and Jenn soon joined him, feeling pressure to partake.
She described that five year period as a time when she and her husband would do anything to “score a high.” At times, Jenn would admit herself into detox centers, begging Bob to go with her, to which he would reply, “You have more of a problem than I do.” Jenn could feel that her marriage was toxic but couldn’t seem to find a way out. “There was a lot of pressure from people to stay with him. I had gotten 7 years into this marriage and he was my best friend.”
It all culminated one day, after several days of being sick from heroin use, when Jenn realized she needed to make a change. She admitted herself into a rehabilitation clinic and made the decision to separate from her husband. Jenn describes this period of her life (after leaving Bob) as one of the most painful experiences. Jenn found herself in a cycle of abusive relationships, homelessness, and psychiatric hospitalizations. “I’ve couch-surfed, tented outside, lived with friends and family, and been in bad abusive relationships because I had nowhere to go. It’s been a long road.” She never knew where she would be from one day to the next.
Jenn’s story began to turn around when she was referred to Pathways Vermont’s Housing First program from a women’s shelter in Brattleboro. She was introduced to our team in Windham County who was quickly able to secure Jenn a beautiful apartment overlooking the brook in Putney. After over 10 years of not having a place to call her own, Jen and her 12-year-old terrier Chloe, who has been a huge part of Jenn’s recovery, finally feel like they are home. Jenn recalled seeing her new place for the first time, “When we (Jenn and Amanda, her Housing Coordinator pictured left above) saw this place for the first time, we all cried because I haven’t had my own place in so long.” Jenn loves sitting in her big armchair in the mornings, enjoying a cup of coffee while the sun shines in from her skylight, and watching Chloe chase her many toys from one side of the apartment to the other.
Jenn has created strong bonds with her Pathways Vermont service team who are helping her to realize her dreams. She now has goals of going back to school for equine therapy and has created an online forum for people with other similar life experiences to share their stories. Jenn also recently joined the Pathways Vermont Tenant Advisory Committee, helping us better understand the needs of our service recipients. Jenn is beginning to plan a future for herself – one she didn’t think was possible just a few years ago.