Hello, my name is Torri. I am writing to you to tell you a little about myself, how I became homeless, and how the Lake County Haven helped me to turn it all around.
I was born and raised in the suburbs, in areas that are safe, quiet, even idyllic. Yet my childhood was filled with neglect and hunger. I was raised by a single mother; I grew up not knowing my dad. I’m sure my mom tried her best, but she struggled with mental health problems which frequently overwhelmed her. I remember that as early as 3 years of age, I didn’t have food to eat. At 8 years old, I was admitted into the hospital with Hepatitis A, which I got from the vile conditions of how my family lived: stray animals in and out, filth in every room, no toilet paper, no food ever.
My family moved about every 6 months, sometimes more. I never had childhood friends because by the time I would open up to other kids in school, I was headed to a new one. The constant moving, lack of stability, no structure, no love, no friends… this is what I knew to be normal.
At 13 I managed to get a job in a pizza place so I could become the care-taker for myself and my two sisters. Finally, we had food! My manager pretended not to know that I was only 13 while I worked for him because he understood the dynamics of my home. He knew I needed to work to survive.
When I was still a teenager, my mother, during one of her many rages, hit me in the face with a full glass coffee pot, shattering it on my cheek. 56 stitches in my face. I escaped to the city and moved in with my boyfriend.
A few years later, after I had married, my husband became abusive. He told me that he hit me because he loved me so much. I left him and then returned again many times. There were good times, too. There was love and we had 3 beautiful babies together. But the bad times were horrific. He instilled fear in me that today I still cannot verbalize. I tried to fight back, but he was 220 lbs of solid muscle. My resistance just made the beatings worse.
One night, I left. I ran away, as far away as I could get. However, with no means of support, I found myself moving from one house to another. I also put myself in very unsafe situations which resulted in being drugged and sexually assaulted. These are the circumstances women live under while being homeless.
Finally, my quest for a way out finally came together. I found out about the Lake County Haven. We all have this vision of a shelter: institutional, cement walls, rows of cots. Instead I arrived to a beautiful, clean, cozy home in Libertyville. People walking down the streets with their children, parks, bakeries, safety, happiness.
The shelter door opened to smiling faces of the staff welcoming me into the very first home I would ever know. I say “home” because this was a true home…like the ones I had seen on TV. There was furniture, beds made with sheets and blankets, food in the fridge and pantry, laughter.
I began working with my counselor the following day. I learned how to break the cycle of violence and to be who I was meant to be. I learned to create a resume. I learned to budget. My Haven family and I ate dinner together every night. I had friends. I began to see the world as a good place and trust that there are good people in it.
Every night, after I did my chores, I would get on my knees and say “Thank you! Thank you for the home and family”. I was happy to be alive. The little girl in me was finally safe and fed and cared for.
Today my children and I are a happy, safe, loving family. I work full-time and support my children in our own home. My kids have a mom who will protect, love, cherish and support them throughout life. The Lake County Haven truly saved my life! Everything I needed to know to become the woman, mother, sister, daughter, person I am, came from the Haven.
Thank you for reading my story, and for supporting the women and children who are still in need. I am proud to say I am a part of the solution for these women as well. I volunteer at the shelter often, assuring the residents that they, too, can break the cycle of homelessness and violence, with the help and support of you and the Haven.
PS: Hi. This is Laura Sabino, Executive Director of Lake County Haven. If you believe in helping women like Torri and her children, please follow your heart and make a generous gift to the Haven today. Your gift will immediately go to work, providing safe beds, good meals, support and guidance that people need to become independent again. Each gift is greatly appreciated and will make a real difference. ♥