Having graduated from The Shepherd’s House on Monday with plans to spend Thanksgiving with her family on Thursday, Amanda Essick was excited — and a little bit scared.
“I’m nervous,” she said. “I’ve missed so many holidays with my family because I was out doing something I shouldn’t have been doing.”
Essick entered the Mount Airy crisis prevention center after her release from the Stokes County Jail on Sept. 28.
It had been a rough couple of months.
“I became homeless in August for the first time ever,” the 32-year-old said, when she could no longer live with family.
On probation for a drug conviction, she needed an address, or she’d be put back in jail.
“I was scared to go back to jail,” Essick said. “I didn’t know what to do.”
She tried to kill herself, swallowing 440 pills.
The overdose landed her in the hospital and on a ventilator for three days and then back in jail in Stokes County.
Still homeless when her release date arrived in late September, a sergeant there found a place for her at The Shepherd’s House.
“I had no idea what I was walking into,” she said. “I was terrified.”
She was surprised by what she found.
“It’s not a regular homeless shelter. You don’t just come in and get shelter for a night and leave,” she said.
The Shepherd’s House is a 90-day program that provides many types of support for those admitted, said Mary Boyles, executive director.
The center partners with local businesses and agencies to help find jobs for clients, who are assisted with job applications and prepared for interviews and tasks like obtaining identification.
Transportation is provided for appointments such as job interviews, treatment or counseling, and case work hours.
“I’m used to doing everything on my own, the wrong way,” Essick said. “I’m so thankful this is here.”
The center also provides an atmosphere full of much-needed emotional support.
“I came here and everyone welcomed me with open arms. I was not judged at all,” she said. “It was overwhelming. It made me completely want to be a better person.”
Essick moved out of the center on Monday into her own place in Mount Airy.
She’s got a car, money in the bank, and a new outlook.
“She got herself back in line,” Boyles said. “I’m so impressed with that fierce strength of hers.”
The graduate plans on returning to work part time at The Shepherd’s House.
“I love it here, I do,” Essick said. “I want to continue to help. A lot of people don’t realize what it is and what it does to help someone else.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.