Fresh Hope in the Wake of Tragedy

Feb 7, 2024 | by Brent Rinehart

A nice home, plenty of money, even a Cadillac Escalade – Patricia Brown had it all. Her fiancé at the time was a drug dealer, and business was good. Patricia had access to any kind of drug she wanted, and she took advantage of it. But, she still felt something lacking. She was realizing that she needed help to quit using drugs and get her life on track. Growing up in the church, she knew what she needed was God in her life.

Within a short time frame, her world was rocked by tragedy after tragedy. Her fiancé passed away. She lost everything. Her drug use was her means of coping. She was determined to quit, but she didn’t know where to turn. Later, she lost two of her grown children, each succumbed to medical complications and illnesses. She found out her son had cancer. She was overwhelmed by circumstances outside of her control, along with the devastation of the consequences of her own choices.

“On December 1, 2018, I put whatever I had in that [Escalade] and headed toward Charlotte,” she said. “I have grandchildren here. I wanted to come and get a new start in life. My son had sent me the money to travel. As I traveled here, I never looked back.”

She stayed with her granddaughter for about three months, but quickly learned that wasn’t a long-term solution.

She began making calls to try to find a place to go, and eventually she found The Salvation Army Center of Hope. She moved into the Center of Hope on April 9, 2019.

She had been in a shelter before. But, something was different this time.

“I was just soul-searching because it was different,” she said. “Here I am in my late 50s and homeless. I have my grandchildren, but surely didn’t want to stay with my grandchildren.”

She was able to keep her vehicle at the shelter and use it to drive to work. But, eventually, she had some mechanical issues that landed the car in the shop. And, she didn’t have the resources to have it repaired. She utilized bus passes to get back and forth to work.

Even though she had safe shelter and access to transportation, she knew she still had work to do to get back on her feet and get her life together. She met Salvation Army officers, such as Captain Shimei Hewitt, who introduced her to the programs and church services available through The Salvation Army. She began attending church at The Salvation Army Belmont Corps.

“In the Bible, it talks about the land of milk and honey. This is what Charlotte is, even right now today,” she said. “No, it’s not easy. But, I thank God. At that time, on December 1, was the first time I was sure that those drugs were behind me.”

By July of 2019, she was able to move out of the shelter and into her first apartment in Charlotte. She recalls looking out of her window and seeing prostitution taking place, or people using or dealing drugs.

“I can hear it in my spirit, I can choose today which one I want to serve. I can go out there and do the same thing, or I can be still at that very time and say that Jesus is Lord. He’s gonna take my hand and show me what I need to do.”

Patricia has since moved to a different apartment. She’s working two jobs, one as a store clerk and another as an LPN, taking care of elderly patients. Despite being a senior herself, she works seven days a week taking care of individuals, seeing that they are bathed, cared for, taking medications and making it to doctor’s appointments. She works daily until 3 p.m. in her LPN duties, then works from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. as a clerk.

“Growing up, I never wanted to be a burden to anyone. Our parents taught us to be independent. That stuck to me. It sticks with me day to day. Not being a burden to anyone,” she said.

“I shared that with my resident that I take care of. It doesn’t bother me to walk them to the kitchen or fix them something to eat. That’s my job. To make sure they are clean. Make sure their area is safe. It’s not really a job to me, because it’s a passion. My heart is to help someone that can’t help themselves.”

She hasn’t forgotten that it wasn’t that long ago that she was the one needing extra support. And, she found that at The Salvation Army.

“My children were upset with me. ‘Mom, why are you going to a shelter when you have [family]?’ I needed to do this on my own. And, being able to stay at the Center of Hope, I was able to put my money away, get it together and move on.”

She used her time at the shelter to develop skills and take advantage of the programs and resources at her fingertips. Even while staying at the Center of Hope, she would rise early to help clean the space, help out in the kitchen, or do whatever was needed.

In her view, it was the least she could do, “because you are here to get this service, whatever they have to offer. They help you with clothes, they help you with food, they help you with a bus pass. Why are you still here? So I got what I needed and moved on with life.”

“Of course, you turn the page back and look at what happened in life. Then, that’s when you turn the page forward and say where the strength came from to know that’s not the life I want to live. That’s not where I want to be. I don’t think I’m better than anyone. But, I know I’m better than that lifestyle.”

“I thank God for The Salvation Army because it’s not just there for the sign. It’s there to help someone who wants that help. It’s to better someone and give [someone like me] a better chance.”


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