Spare Change News is proud to present the next installment of “In Their Own Words,” which highlights the work of writers who meet at Rosie’s Place.
In late 2014, Rosie’s Place, a community center for Boston’s poor and homeless women, started a memoir workshop. The intention was to have the guests, as they call the women they serve, write about their lives as a means of understanding and possibly working through difficult experiences. It was one of many creative outlets offered at Rosie’s Place that may also have a therapeutic benefit.
Today’s writer, Norma Stewart-Heath, was always an excellent student, but life got in the way of her moving ahead in her education. She came to Rosie’s Place just as she was starting to reclaim her life. She says a memoir workshop reawakened the student in her. Soon enough, she returned to school, determined to complete her college degree. This is her story.
In May of 2015, when my soul mate died in my arms, I ended up homeless. I knew I had to do something or I was going to die as well. Literally. I was working to come out of a psychotic break, which had left me incapacitated for five years. What caused the mental breakdown was my addiction to drugs and alcohol, a stressful job and family life, self-hatred and, in the end, an undiagnosed mental illness.
I reached out to God for help. For those who don’t believe in God, it’s OK, just believe in something that is more powerful than yourself, such as nature, the universe, your ancestors, etc. You will get the help you ask for and the power to do what your heart desires, within reason.
I came to Rosie’s Place in Boston, which led me to several other community organizations to help me get my life back on track. With their help, I got clean off drugs, started meds for my mental health and obtained safe housing. Once on my feet, I went back to school and finally received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard University.
I decided it was time to start giving back to Rosie’s Place and others. I became a volunteer in the Women’s Education Center as a teacher and a tutor. I also opened a door to Harvard Extension School classes for Rosie’s Place guests and staff. I am a student and a teacher in the Writing Cafe program for ESOL students. I am a proud member of Team Rosie’s Place at Back on My Feet Boston and an alumna of the Women’s Craft Cooperative. I also volunteer as a jewelry teacher and help out with the Public Policy Department at Rosie’s Place.
I am grateful for the financial help I am currently receiving from Rosie’s Place and Harvard University, which has allowed me to pursue a master’s degree in Religion and public policy. I am in my first semester in grad school and still can’t believe that I am the same woman who used to catch invisible flies in the air. LOL! Today I am living my dreams and not my circumstances.
With the help with all of my new friends and connections, I started my own business, Amron International Organization. We are a Recovery Coaching and Mental Health Peer Specialist Service. We work with women seeking recovery who might be presently and formerly incarcerated and/or presently and formerly homeless and/or diagnosed with a mental illness. Basically, we are mentors and cheerleaders for recoverees. We help to remove obstacles and barriers in the way of their recovery and provide resources to help the recoveree become successful. We teach them to fish, not just give them a fish.
I would like to shout out a huge THANK YOU TO ROSIE’S PLACE for supporting us from homelessness and beyond.