For six years, June Freeman lived on the streets of Santa Monica and Venice after a falling out with her partner that left her homeless soon after she moved from Colorado with him in 2006.
Self-labeled as one of the “dirty dozen” in Venice, Freeman said she lived in alleys and drank all day. That was until August last year when she had pain in her pancreas.
“I was lying on the sidewalk left for dead for two days,” Freeman said. “All my road dogs left me and I was all alone. I called my case manager at St. Josephs. I was picked up and taken to hospital. I was in hospital for five days. I had a blood clot in my lower leg from a knee injury on the streets. I was scared to death. My daddy died from pancreatitis four years ago. I knew then that this was it, I’ve got to change my ways.”
Freeman’s story was one of four shared at the 17th Annual Celebrating Success Breakfast at the Fairmont Miramar on Oct. 26. The event honored 27 previously homeless individuals who, with the support of local nonprofit agencies, have made extraordinary transitions from homelessness to lives filled with passion and promise.
The event also honored 12 local businesses, organizations, and individuals who have dedicated significant resources to supporting the member agencies of the Westside Shelter & Hunger Coalition (WSHC), and St. John’s Health Center, which received the 2012 WSHC Partnership Award.
Freeman spoke to the several hundred attendees about how she never listened to her case managers and had given up before her major health scare.
“I didn’t want to be part of this world anymore,” she said. “I lost my family contacts, I didn’t have any family here. Through the help of a lot of people out there who encouraged me to continue to ask for help, they sent me from the hospital to the OPCC/ Samo Shell program which is sponsored by Saint John’s. I was there for two months. I asked my case manager what was my next step, and I was told to try to get into transitional housing. I waited another two weeks and I was accepted into the day break program for women and I ended up doing well there. I learned how to do everything over again that I had forgotten on the streets from brushing your teeth to washing your face. I didn’t look in the mirror because there was nothing to look at.”
Freeman, who said she suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, described how elated she was when she moved into her own place in April this year.
“When I was homeless, I felt like I lived in a fish bowl and everyone was looking at me at all times,” she said. “There was nowhere I could go where somebody wasn’t looking at me. When I got into my apartment, I just laid on the floor and I stayed there for about six days. I ordered food in, I started meditating, and praying again.”
She said she started going to church and reconnected with her family for the first time in six years.
“I went and saw my mom and my granny,” she said. “My granny is 94 years old and she gives me my strength, she’s my mentor. I asked my grandma how she does it, and she said ‘you just do with what you’ve got.’ You know, that is the truth. I learned to do with what I had out there.”
Now that her life is back on track, she said she visits her friends who are still homeless to encourage them to change their lives.
“I say ‘go to the case managers, go to your appointments,’” she said. “I was fortunate enough that my case managers came to me a lot because I was not compliant with showing up to the offices. It was very scary sitting in an office and closing the door. I wouldn’t let anyone close the door for months. I’m overcoming a lot of trauma that happened to me on the streets. I’m so blessed that St. Josephs has been there for me as well as my case managers. I’ve been there for years and they have seen me through all of my trials. I’m physically disabled now and they have helped with all my doctor appointments. I’m allowed to just live. Now I’m volunteering for St. Josephs and hope that maybe someday I can help more people in the community.”