By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
BALTIMORE, Md.— Outspoken, gregarious Lori is 51 years old. She is quick to tell you that Jesus rescued her from lifestyle of crime, abuse and incredible devastation. Lori was kicked out of her home at the age of 22 for stealing money to get high. That was her first taste of homelessness.
“I went to the streets. I slept in cardboard boxes, under bridges and over heat grates. Sometimes I got leftover food from restaurants and sometimes I ate from dumpsters,” Lori says.
Why did she get high? “I was running from the demons of my past,” she admits. Lori and her sister were repeatedly raped by their father. The abuse began when she was six years old.
She did not ask for help from churches. “I blamed God. If there was a God, why was he allowing things like this to happen to me?” she says.
A chaplain at the Jennifer Road Detention Center was the first to plant some spiritual seeds in Lori’s heart.
“He helped me understand that what happened to me was not of God. He told me that if I reached out and allowed God to help me, He would deliver me from my pain and misery, but I wasn’t ready for that to happen.”
Lori hit the streets again immediately after being released from the detention center. She continued a lifestyle of addiction and crime to support her drug habit.
“I stayed in abandominiums,” she laughs, explaining that she, like many others who are homeless, claim abandoned homes as their own until finally caught and arrested for trespassing.
Lori’s life is different now thanks to a program called “The Answer” in Baltimore. She was referred to the in-house Christian program by Joshua Smith, minister of intentional living at Gallery Church, Baltimore.
Lori has learned to face her past, to give it to Jesus, to release herself to Him and claim Him as her Lord and Savior. She graduated from “The Answer” in April and is staying at the home until she can find a permanent residence.
She has reconciled with her children, and formed bonds with other family members and friends. Lori is working part-time helping with a new used furniture store “The Answer” opened recently. Her long-term plans include sharing her testimony and ministering to other women who suffered childhood abuse.
Lori’s story is one of at least 50,000 homeless Marylanders, though most aren’t so fortunate. For some, homelessness began with addiction. Others have crumbled under the weight of illness, medical bills, job loss or illiteracy. Some are immigrants that haven’t been able to assimilate. There are countless reasons and few solutions, but Maryland/Delaware church members know Christ is the only answer.