Testifying at the capitol

Linda testified this week at the capitol. This is her powerful testimony:

Linda B., Representative Jeff Hayden and Simpson Housing Executive Director Julie Manworren

Linda B., Representative Jeff Hayden and Simpson Housing Executive Director Julie Manworren

Thank you Madame Chair and Members. My name is Linda Buechner, and I would like to share my experience of working with the Family Roots Alliance, which is funded by the state’s long-term homeless supportive services fund. If it wasn’t for the services that Family Roots Alliance provides, my family and I wouldn’t be where we are today.

I grew up in St. Paul, MN, and now live in Minneapolis. I have 3 children—2 boys and a girl. Before I became involved with Family Roots Alliance, I had been homeless for 9 out of the past 13 years. I was able to get various apartments, but would lose them after about 3 weeks because I wouldn’t pay the next month’s rent. My kids were bounced from school to school, and didn’t have any stability. I was chemically dependent, with my drug of choice being crack cocaine. I was addicted for 10 years, and thought that because I never did drugs in front of my kids that they didn’t know about my addiction—turns out they knew the entire time. I had been in denial for a long time. I was more focused on partying than being a parent.

In December of 2005, I was arrested and spent a little over 3 months in jail. During this time, my boys were staying with my brother Ron, and my daughter was put in foster care. After my jail time, I went to chemical dependency treatment, and then stayed with a friend. I entered a halfway house, but then left early to stay with my sister. I lived with my sister for a short time, and then left to go to a shelter in Minneapolis—my sister’s lease was being jeopardized by my staying there. It took me a while to realize that the only way that I could get help was to reach out for help and work on myself. I didn’t want to “stoop so low,” as I thought then, to have to stay at a shelter, but I had no choice. I took one of my sons with me—the other son stayed with my relative, and my daughter was still in foster care.

Being homeless is scary. My son and I almost didn’t make it to the shelter by close one night, and almost had to spend the night outside. My son was 10 at the time, and was very afraid. It’s hard to put a child through that.

In January of 2007, I was referred to the Family Roots Alliance. They helped me to find an apartment in less than 2 weeks. My son that had been with me in shelter lived there right away, and my other son was able to come home by the end of that month. My daughter was still in foster care, and she was able to come home in June of 2007. The judge was amazed at everything I’d accomplished in less than 6 months—accomplishments that I couldn’t have done without the support of the Family Roots Alliance program. Making changes in your life is hard work. They supported me, but I was the one who had to change. The staff provide support for me and my kids—they don’t just put us in housing and forget about us. Travis, my educational support advocate, was able to help find a school that is a good fit for my kids. My advocates help out with bus fare for school, and with school supplies. My kids now have more one on one time with their teachers, and are learning to control their emotions. Family Roots Alliance also has a Teen Group, and put on different activities that my kids look forward to. They helped my family to be “adopted” so that we could get assistance with Christmas gifts.

Today, I have been sober for over 3 years. I can talk about it with my kids now, but it was a hard transition. My kids weren’t used to a “sober mom,” and had to get used to the adjustment. The advocates at Family Roots Alliance are helping me with my parenting skills, and with helping my kids learn responsibility. When I was using, I would give my kids whatever they wanted—I didn’t know how to manage my priorities and responsibilities, and therefore definitely didn’t have a way to teach my kids about responsibility. My family advocate, Lee, helped me to come up with a system to help me and my kids budget.

I want to get to the point where I can help homeless people that are in the situation I used to be in. I want to let folks know that it’s hard to be homeless, but help is out there—don’t be ashamed to ask. I look forward to opening the blinds every morning—I love my new life. When I was addicted and homeless, I didn’t realize my responsibilities—now, with the help of my advocates, I do. I don’t want my kids to make the same mistakes I did. There have been times in my life, even while in this program, that I was ready to give up—if it wasn’t for the Family Roots Alliance staff, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I always try to find a way to work out issues on my own first, but I know that my advocates are only a phone call away. My testimony today isn’t just for myself—it’s for everybody out there who needs a hand up. I hope that my story helps bring about the opportunity for others who were in my situation to turn their lives around, too.

Thank you for listening, and for this opportunity.

Linda Buechner.

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