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Homeless: Life in the Shelter

women shelter picSPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — Dianna Maguire has a story like every other woman who walks through “Friends of the Homeless” front doors.

“I survived a serial killer trying to kill me, I survived a lot of rapes, a lot of abuse; but I didn’t care because I was using,” Maguire admits.

The women’s shelter is her safe haven. Dianna guides ABC40’s Brittany Decker through the building.

“Can you take us through a typical night of what it’s like here at the shelter?” asks Decker, “Yes I can,” Dianna responds, “At 4:30 they start serving dinner.”

Everyone gathers in the cafeteria. On the menu tonight is chicken and rice.

“This is our last meal for the night until the morning time,” says Dianna.

After falling on hard times again, she finds comfort in her structured routine, “When we get out of dinner, we get in line and wait for the staff to come out to assign chores. They usually come out at about 5:15.”

As each woman enters the room filled with beds, the staff searches through each bag and personal item. Then they are given a chore.

“So what’s your chore tonight?” asks Decker.

“My chore is flat surfaces. I clean the top, the door, the handle, I do that than I do the same thing with the dryer,” she explains while cleaning.

The new curfew for women to be inside the shelter is 8 PM, and the night is fully planned. “We come in here and I’m going to show you where we sign in,” says Dianna as she signs her name to a bunk, shower, and TV time.

Then she is given all of her supplies.

“So if I don’t have my own towel, I ask them for a towel and I take a shower, but I can’t have my bedding until I take my shower,” notes Dianna.

After making her bed she locks up the few things that belong to her.

“Have you ever had anything taken from you?” asks Decker.

“Yes. I mean socks or underwear I’m not going to beat up someone up for.  If you needed it, I just wished you would have asked me,” says Dianna.  “You’ve got to pretty much hold onto your stuff, lock up your stuff, or sleep with it,” she adds.

The women here look forward to the end of the night where they can sign up for a bit of recreation time.  Many times, this means socializing with each other.

“We’ve got a lot of young ones in here, they’ve never been through a process like this before. Some women come in scared,” Dianna notes.

This is the situation for Bernadette Brennan.

“I was really upset when I first got here; I was crying,” she says, “I owned my own condo actually in Agawam.  I couldn’t find a job and I got sick. I got sicker and sicker and still couldn’t find a job to pay my bills and unfortunately this is what happens.”

Dianna takes women like Bernadette under her wing. During this tough time, its important to get through each night together.

“I feel safe with these women because they’re just like me,” says Dianna.

The goal for most is to get back on their feet. Friends of the Homeless offers support groups and a case worker to each person.

“They help you fill out applications for apartments and jobs and whatever you need,” explains Dianna.

Stability is what Bernadette and Dianna are trying to achieve.

Dianna shares part of a poem she wrote just the other day, “I believe in change, I believe in trying something new, I believe in the storms I go through.”

“I believe in myself and I believe in every woman out there,” she adds.

Believing is step one, now Dianna plans to utilize resources and take action, “They can’t force anybody, you have to want it for yourself.”


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