In my early 20s I became homeless after a series of cataclysmic events. Before my life started to unravel I was a happy, healthy, successful student at St. Catherine University. My diligent work at SCU earned me a place in the Antonian Scholar’s Honors Society, a Billie Rhodes Spellman all campus Leadership Award, and academic merit scholarships. I was becoming a confident and capable young woman with great convictions in the tradition of so many “Katies” before me.
My good fortune in being a student at a beautiful and celebrated private college and in every other aspect of my young life was turned upside down by a severe mental breakdown. My symptoms ranged from paranoia, to incoherence of thought, you name it and I experienced it. The diagnosis was an SPMI (Severe and Persistent Mental Illness), specifically bipolar disorder. My symptoms were so incapacitating that I could not continue taking classes at Saint Kate’s.
No longer enrolled in classes, I had to move out of my dorm. I lived with family, with friends, slept in parks, in shelters, and ran the gambit. The group home system was a stable alternative to unpredictability and constant fear that I lived with as a homeless young adult woman. My transition from an award-winning achiever to a ward of the state mental health system was as humiliating as you can imagine it was. I lived miserably as a shell of my former self for years until finally I qualified to move into an affordable housing complex.
Living independently gave me the feeling of normalcy I needed to begin rebuilding my life. I have lived safely and happily in an affordable housing unit for more than six years. After completing my general education courses [at Minneapolis Community and Technical College], this fall I returned to SCU as an evening and weekend student. I am a junior on course to graduate in spring of 2015 with a BS in communications studies. I plan to apply to MBA programs to study finance and economics so that I can help poor and disenfranchised members of society help themselves out of poverty through education, savings and investments. Some of what I have accomplished in reclaiming my life is attributable to my determination and my willingness to work at gaining after I lost so much, but, almost everything I have succeeded in doing was possible because I did have a safe and affordable place to live in. Affordable housing gave me a foundation for transformation in my life.