Throughout the year the YWCA La Crosse recognizes women in the community that inspire and support the work they do. At this year's Circle of Friends Luncheon, the YWCA celebrates themselves, highlighting the programs within their organization that make a lasting impact on the lives of people in our community.
Supportive Housing is just one of many programs within the YWCA La Crosse's Advocacy Programs helping women have a safe, supportive space in which to live in a critical stage of their recovery process.
It might look like an ordinary house but inside the walls of Ruth House is where miracles happen.
"I wouldn't be sitting here today if it wasn't for them giving me a job, for caring and looking at me like I'm a human being," said Shelby.
She had big dreams as a kid but being an addict wasn't one of them.
"I grew up in a wonderful home. I had a good job and upbringing," said Shelby.
Thirteen years ago Shelby had three consecutive surgeries. The doctors prescribed pain medication. Shelby says she was instantly hooked. It helped with the pain but also the depression. "At first I thought there's nothing wrong with this. The doctor is giving this to me," said Shelby.
When she couldn't get the pills anymore she turned to heroin and eventually meth.
"It got me in trouble with the law. It got me fired from jobs. I was homeless," said Shelby.
Abbi Jeffers is the Housing Case Manager at the YWCA La Crosse Ruth House. She says the fact that Shelby is sitting here today is a testament to her strength and resilience.
"Lots of people go through things, incredibly traumatic events: sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, domestic violence. It wears on people and to watch people overcome that?! I truly feel that people with addiction they're medicating. They're numbing something to cover up that pain and trauma that they're going through."
The YWCA's Supportive Housing Programs like Ruth House and Ophelia House provide small simple things that make a big difference to a person trying to get their life back on track.
"If you're worried about where you're going to stay or sleep, it's hard to think about going to get a job or keep a job or going back to school, so it's making sure those basic needs are met so that people can feel supported to think beyond that," said YWCA La Crosse Development Director Rose Reinert.
"I didn't have to worry about where I was going to sleep. It gives you time to worry about your work, your schooling,your mental health issues and just things you need to worry about," said Shelby.
"I think back. Nobody's made it by themselves without support from someone. For a lot of the people that we work with they're invisible to people in the community but they still really matter. We want to make sure that they have somebody there to support them through that journey so they can get to a point where maybe they can help someone else or be that support for them." said Reinert.
"When you look at people like Shelby and what she has gone through and now how she is working and she's got a house. She's talking to her mom and her kids and her grand kids. It's amazing to be a part of that," said Jeffers.
Thanks to the YWCA's Supportive Programs like Ruth House, for the first time in more than a decade Shelby sees herself for what she really is.
"I can say that I'm a human being. I'm a mother. I'm a grandmother. I'm a daughter. I'm mending the relationships with everyone and it's just absolutely fabulous," said Shelby.
Supportive Housing is just one of many Empowerment Programs the YWCA La Crosse offers.
For more information go to www.ywcalax.org or attend the annual Circe of Friend's luncheon April 18 by calling 608-781-2783.
Mary Faherty, Dee Paque and Toyota of La Crosse will be honored for their contributions supporting women and families in the community.