Good evening, my name is Gabriella and tonight I would like to share my story with you. I was born in October of 1992 to my mother and father. I have one older and one younger brother. For the most part, we were a tight-knit family living in the suburbs. Although my father was a hardworking and intelligent individual, over time his alcoholism divided our once close family. As a little girl, I often heard my parents yelling and screaming from their bedroom. There were plenty of times when I was afraid to leave my room to use the bathroom, just because I didn’t know what I might see. Over a fifteen year period, the abuse worsened and became more destructive. The last time my father had a violent episode due to drinking, I knew it would be the last time I would ever see him. One day, after my father discovered I wasn’t doing well in school, he beat me with a broom until I was covered in welts. The next day, I went to hospital and my father went to prison.
I thought this was the worst it could get for me, but it wasn’t. It only got worse. My mother started using drugs and moved us around frequently. Consequently, my mother went to jail. When her family bailed her out, we moved to Broward County. She was able to find a job, a home, and a car. But, she became involved with a boyfriend and continued to use. I made the decision to leave home and move in with my boyfriend. Together, we had our daughter, Carmen. My boyfriend, however, become very emotionally and physically abusive. He would try to control my every move. I remember a time that I went to the store without his permission. When I returned he became incredibly angry and beat me. My face began to bleed and he continued to hit me in the face. I tried to get away from him but he chased me down the street and continued to punch me until the policed arrived and I was taken to the hospital. I should have used that opportunity to leave him for good, but I honestly had nowhere else to go. After another episode in which he hit me repeatedly, I feared for my life and my daughter’s safety and sanity, so we left… but we had no where to go. Luckily, I found refuge at Calvary Chapel which gave me a place to stay until they could connect me with another program. That’s how I ended up at Covenant House.
At this point, with all that I’ve been through, I can honestly say that I am so happy to have found a place at Covenant House. For a long time, I tried to find a way to get away from all the destruction. I’m excited to finish my education, find a job, and keep Carmen in a safe place. My biggest priority is to give Carmen the security, stability, and the support that I didn’t have. I want everybody to know, including my daughter, that there are a lot of obstacles in life, but with love and confidence, anyone can overcome difficult situations and see hope in the future.
The cool breeze, of the night of April ninth was when I arrived at the doors of the Covenant House. Broken and completely wearied by life, I was hoping that this was the first of many steps into my destiny. The minute I took a seat in intake and took my first deep breath, I made a decision to never go back where I was. I became aware that starving every day would end when I was greeted with a hot meal, something my conscience still can't bear. Also having to beg for bath tissue and a chance to shower became a day job within itself, but knowing a warm bed was waiting for me soothed all of my worries.
That night I rested and woke the next morning to the Covenant House structures of hospitality, such as a hot breakfast. Once the staff was content that I was all settled, they made their softest approach to get to know me better, and learn my individual needs. They used this information to tailor the perfect plan for me while I was under their care. Full of anxieties from abuse and neglect the first step in my treatment was regular therapy sessions. I had a chance to tell someone what happened to me and how I felt about it; a chance to lay all my problems on the table without feeling like I'm a burden. Once I was able to address my past, I discovered that I was just an intelligent, AP scholar, who graduated with a 3.9 G.P.A being held back by generational cycles trying to suck me in.
My family was the source of all my deepest concerns, and unfortunately, my great grandmother still is the chief enabler to generations of prostitution, child abuse, chemical dependency, and all sorts of financial fraud. Having my identity stolen at 15 by my family was the foundation of my misery which didn't manifest its affect until I tried to transition into adulthood. At the Covenant House I feel safe, and it didn't feel like I was surrounded by staff, but some long lost family given to me by God. This place really owns up to its name. My mind was finally as clear as a sunny day at Ft. Lauderdale Beach, which is beautiful by-the-way. Being here lets you enjoy the small things about yourself and life ahead. Covenant House provides great social and economic education programs such as JRT otherwise known as job readiness training. I was able to snag a job paying $11.00 an hour in less than two weeks of being here. I will also be getting into a four year, post-secondary institution, as soon as this Fall with fully paid tuition. Some social support programs like ADA known as alcohol drug awareness, teaches me about my place as the family hero coming from generations of drug abusers. I even gained another shot of confidence and improved my self-esteem with a program called self-reflections.
With all of that pain and time to heal, I think the most memorable moment for me would be when I discovered that I was five weeks pregnant. Instantly the clinic felt small, but Ms. Kristen, the director of Healthy Start, introduced me to her program that would gear me towards a healthy pregnancy and birth. Plus I would still have access to personal care and support until my baby reaches age three. With my level of competency and all the knowledge I will gain from the independent living program, I’m sure I’ll be able to take it from there.
To have a great income opportunity and college back in place, I know that my three week stay here has been purposeful and fulfilling, and I am confident I will have more success to come. I have much needed support and a chance to break a generational cycle that had me and my unborn by the neck. One day I want to be able to thank the Covenant House and make them glad they put in all of their hard work and dedication.
Gladly written by a future Naturopathic Dr., Full-time mommy, and of course a follower of God because this place is truly heaven sent, and I know he sent me to them for a reason, a season, and a lifetime.
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Covenant House has helped me turn into an actual human being. How? Well first they gave me everything I needed to survive. Food, water, soap, shelter, and immediacy. On the streets I had no food, water, shelter, for two weeks. I was starving for those two long weeks. Then I looked to Covenant House Florida. Since I have been here, they have given me “life advice” when I needed the extra support. They have also given me “life skills” by showing me how to wash a car and put degreaser on tires. I also have a Life Skills coach named Brent. The reason why I call Mr. Brent as my Life Skills coach is because he and a few others taught me how to ignore ignorance. They have also taught me to stop talking bad about myself. (Even though I talk bad about myself sometimes.) They have also given me redirection when needed which was exactly what I needed in my life. At home (the last place I went to) I was given no redirection. I was also given consequence after consequence. At Covenant House, they give you a chance to live your life and they give you a chance to straighten up.
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