Angie created her poem “A Gift from God” (see below) in conjunction with Madeline Batt of Elm City Echo — “a student driven initiative of Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project that seeks to create economic and expressive opportunity for marginalized members of the New Haven community experiencing extreme poverty and homelessness.” The poem will be published in an upcoming issue of “Elm City Echo.”
“I’ve always been a people person.”
Angie grew up in the Hill neighborhood in New Haven, right around the corner from Columbus House’s Boulevard location. “I always had my own place, since I was 15, always paid my bills and rent.” Angie has many fond memories of helping her neighbors and supporting her community. She remembers driving by Columbus House’s shelter on the Boulevard in the days when people had to line up outside and hope for a bed. “I used to wonder what all those people were doing outside the building.” When she learned they were homeless she felt terrible. She worried about them. She occasionally gave them some cash to help them out. She never imagined that she would be in their shoes, staying in the shelter herself one day.
As illustrated in Angie’s poem “A Gift from God,” (see below) life dealt her some tough blows. She found herself bouncing from house to house with family and friends. Eventually she ran out of places to stay. She turned to Columbus House for help, knowing this was where people went when they had nowhere else to turn.
Angie ended up at Columbus House three separate times. Her third time was different. She enrolled in a rigorous 6-week Employment and Enrichment Center (EEC) course that empowers students with computer skills, employment readiness, and financial literacy. She didn’t think she could show up every day and finish the class, but she did. “I learned about computers and the class gave me courage.” (Angie is pictured 2nd from left with her fellow classmates and instructors at the 13th Columbus House Employment and Enrichment Center class graduation in December 2015)
Mark Washington, Columbus House Recovery Support Educator who runs the EEC class, said Angie’s progress was remarkable. “When Angie first entered the class she had a lot of things going on, just like any other client who comes into a shelter. She would come in every morning and say ‘Hello’ to everyone and sit in front of her computer. She would say ‘this is too hard’ and expressed wanting to quit the program a couple of times. But every day she gave it her all, while still dealing with the issues in her life. I kept telling her ‘you’re not a quitter.’ So, when things got tough for her, she would repeat it to herself ‘I’m not a quitter.’”
Angie also applied for and received a housing voucher this time around. She is currently looking for an apartment while staying in the shelter. It’s not an easy task, but she is hopeful that something will work out soon. “I’m ready to go,” she says. She’s ready to go back to taking care of herself, reuniting with her family and grandchildren, looking for a job, and going back to school. “It’s like I’m going through a tunnel right now. Hopefully there will be a light someday.”
Life is a struggle.
I never thought I would have to struggle being in a shelter, being here, meeting people like my family —
I never thought I’d be in this predicament.
I pray to God every day to fulfill my needs that I can get back on my feet,
That I can be back with my family.
I miss cooking, cleaning, listening to music, dancing,
Helping people in the street.
I never forgot where I came from:
Grew up in the Hill neighborhood.
Whenever they call me I was there.
My door was always open
I watch people’s kids
Raise they children up, from their community.
Tell them, don’t go down the wrong path like I did.
Hopefully things will get better in my life, God willing.
I’m a strong person
I’m a go-getter
I’m a people person.
I pray to God things will get better for me and my family someday. I lost a lot:
I buried my child
I buried my son
I buried my father.
God gave me another chance at life.
I never thought I ‘d live to see forty.
I met a man, I named him forty.
My first son, he was my angel.
My first son, he was my angel.
I call him Tootoo, cause I couldn’t
Call him after his father
I couldn’t give him his father’s name because he was my angel.
He was my Tootoo, he was my everything.
I have two beautiful, lovely daughters
I call my queen.
I have two beautiful daughters
They mean the world to me.
I look at em, they look just like me.
They have a attitude
They have a attitude I can’t explain
But their personality is still the same
They sweet as can be
I always told em don’t grow up like me.
They have beautiful smiles
They have funny jokes just like me.
When I hear them talk they sound just like me.
I thank God every day I live to see my grandchildren
I thank God I gave birth to my children
I love them with all my heart.
And my other child, Antwan
He’s in heaven
He’s my other angel.
I’m Angie B, I’m an Angel of God
That’s how I look at myself.
I’m like a floating butterfly.
I like to cook, sing, dance, swim. I like to have reunions, gather my family together.
I give people uplifting, give ‘em good feedback.
I’m a very positive person. I just pray to God
I come out of my struggle.
You never know where you’re gonna go
But life’s a bitch. I’m learning every day how to survive.
I’m a survivor. There’s no turning back.
I feel like I’m reborn again.
I lost a lot,
I gained more in the end. Things gotta get better for me, my kids, my grandkids.
I been in and out of prison.
Things gotta get better for me. Things gotta get better,
I pray to God, amen. There’s no turning back. Keep on moving.
And I learned to love myself today.