I lost my husband five years ago to a brief illness. Shortly after, unable to meet the demands of being mother and father as well as the sole provider for my family, my three children and I became homeless. I felt ashamed, and everywhere I went, I felt like people thought I was looking for a hand out. I will never forget the feelings that I experienced during my stay in the homeless shelter. I felt like I had failed my family.
As a result of my experiences, I decided that I wanted to prevent others in my community from becoming homeless. When I first started my position with the Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps (MFPC), I was unsure that foreclosure intervention was my calling. After all, these people already had homes, and although they were fighting against circumstances usually beyond their control, they are not what I considered to be the vulnerable, homeless population that I felt I had a calling to work for. Despite my reservations, I decided to go for it and jumped in head first.
My experience as an AmeriCorps member has been challenging. I was like a fish out of water in the foreclosure prevention program because of my lack of experience with foreclosures. I have never even owned my own home. I have, however, been through many trying times and am able to empathize with clients. A person does not truly understand how it feels to be homeless unless they have felt that pain personally, and I use that personal experience to relate on a deeper level with clients. Some days I feel inadequate to the others working in my site office because I lack basic knowledge of some parts of the home ownership arena. Being able to put aside my insecurities and dive into the program was tough for me. With only a few months left, I am so glad I did. I feel a sense of accomplishment for serving my country while at the same time, learning new things and figuring out what I want to be “when I grow up.” I know I want to work with others in need and honestly, I don’t care in what aspect I do that.
I feel pride in myself that I have never felt before whenever I help a new client understand their DHS benefits or when I answer the phone and realize that I have the answers to the questions they have regarding their home in foreclosure. The other employees at my site come to me with questions about how to help clients because my experiences in life have taught me many things about the government system and community resources. My past is no longer a dark spot in my mind filled with tears, embarrassment and frustration. Those experiences have now transformed into tools that only I have to be able to assist and empower clients. I hope to continue this work after my year with AmeriCorps is over because I found new purpose in my life and want to continue to have an impact on lives one family at a time.
Shannon Farmer is an AmeriCorps member at City of Grand Haven Neighborhood Services in Grand Haven.
This post is part of a blog series highlighting the viewpoints of Michigan AmeriCorps Foreclosure Prevention Corps members serving at different foreclosure host sites around Michigan. View information about the program or see more stories in this series.