Karen had to wait six months until her eighteenth birthday to enlist in the Air Force. Though females in the military were not common in 1963, Karen served proudly as a medic for three years. In the years following her active duty service, Karen struggled as a single mom, raising her son and daughter alone. But she never would have imagined that one day that struggle would progress into homelessness.
Despite a bad accident that left her physically limited, Karen moved to Houston and started a sewing business, ran a greenhouse, and cleaned houses to make ends meet. But a series of events suddenly turned her world upside down: her landlord decided to sell the property she was living in leaving her without a home; she lost a close friend to cancer; and she got in a wreck that totaled her car.
That year, 2005, was the last year Karen had stable housing.
“That was a bad time of my life. All at once, things fell apart.”
Karen bounced around for the next decade sometimes living with others, often living in her van. She also spent time in Georgia taking care of her ill sister. “Many days, I feel like I have lived five different lifetimes,” she said.
Karen moved back to Austin last year, hoping for a fresh start, but she found herself homeless once again sleeping in her van. She said the constant need move her van around, not having access to a restroom, and the extreme hot and cold weather was so tough, especially at age 72.
As a veteran, she began calling local resources to see if she could get into stable housing. She kept hearing disappointing news, some telling her it might take up to two years to get a stable home.
“I had no housing and no money. I knew if I could get a home I could start my sewing business again.”
Then she connected with Caritas of Austin. Because of supporters like you, a housing specialist at Caritas of Austin was able to identify a home for Karen in just one week. And it even fit Karen’s top wish: two bedrooms so she had a room to set up her commercial grade sewing machine and cutting board.
“There are just those people who are there when you need them,” she says of Caritas staff members. Your generosity ensures someone is there for the hundreds of people experiencing homelessness in Austin each year. Together, our services build wellbeing and help people reach their full potential so that they can contribute to the community again.
“It feels so wonderful to have a home. I feel like I get to be a person again.”
Your generosity ensures multiple layers of support to build strong foundations for the people we serve. For Karen, that included food from the Pantry, furniture for her new apartment, help connecting to Veterans benefits, and finally clearing out her storage unit after 10 years.
She marvels at each of the pieces of furniture and keepsakes in her home that she hasn’t seen for a decade. They each hold a memory of her 72 years, the good memories and the tough memories.
She says the people at Caritas of Austin have been invaluable. “It means so much to me. Whenever I’ve needed something, you’ve been there.”
While Karen is enjoying the peace that comes with her new chapter of life, she said she still has goals.
“Just because I am 72 doesn’t mean I want to sit around and play dominoes. I am ready to restart my business. I like making things and providing for myself.”
Your donation helps end homelessness together, rebuilding lives and futures one person at a time. Donate today!