Sparking Hope - Jodette's Story
Jodette first told her story to the public at the Annual Breakfast on June 19th.
Jodette is the mother of three wonderful and amazingly intelligent daughters. She worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons for 16 years. With two bachelor’s degrees and one master’s degree in hand, it never crossed her mind that her family would be impacted by homelessness. Yet, that’s where they found themselves, homeless, living in the Extended Stay America and Econo Lodge for 16 months.
In 2012, Jodette was transferred from a job in Virginia with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to work in Butner, NC. After three weeks at her new job, she experienced harassment, and was stalked and taunted by a male correctional officer. One night, after working the 4PM to12AM shift, as she was walking towards her car, she was attacked from the bushes by Mr. H. She fought him off as he attempted to pull her behind her car into the bushes.
Luckily, perimeter patrol was driving around the prison on rotation, heard yelling, and rescued Jodette. Jodette’s face was scraped and bruised, and her shirt was torn, but imagining what would have happened if perimeter patrol had not intervened was terrifying.
Because of those experiences that night, Jodette was forever changed. She learned in the coming days that she was Mr. H’s 17th victim. As hard as Jodette tried to put things back together, fear paralyzed her life. After seeing an inmate die in her presence, she made the difficult decision to resign my position with the Federal Correctional Institute in 2013.
Jodette was traumatized. She began to experience nightmares, panic attacks, uncontrollable crying spells, hyper vigilance, and poor concentration. As a result, she was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder(MDD), and Anxiety Disorder.
In spite of her recent diagnoses, she needed to provide for her daughters. In August 2014, she began working as a Behavioral Specialist at the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women(NCCIW). It was an adjustment after not working for a year, but she was optimistic that enough time had passed that her symptoms would have settled. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Jodette still struggled with day-to-day functions, still gripped with fear and anxiety, and those symptoms only got worse as time passed.
As it happens with life, when it rains, it pours. On September 14, 2015, Jodette’s Mother was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer and shortly after her diagnosis she passed away. The accumulation of all the trauma that had taken place over the course of two years was overwhelming and emotionally exhausting causing Jodette to have a breakdown. She took a leave of absence from her job and didn’t work from October 2015 until May 2016.
After her haitus, Jodette returned to work. She was placed on a modified work schedule so she could continue her therapy sessions with her Psychiatrist and Psychologist. However, her state continued to worsen and her doctors felt it would be best if we requested a Reasonable Accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as under the Amendments Act of 2008(ADAAA). Because of that request, she was placed out of work again until a Reasonable Accommodation could be located for her.
During that time, she was placed on short-term disability and received half of her salary, which equated to $1,500 per month. Half of that was spent to cover health insurance for my children and herself. Along with a $1,200 rent that she could now not afford, Jodette and her children were evicted from their apartment in September 2016. The trouble is having an eviction on your credit makes it virtually impossible to secure another apartment even with a lengthy work history and extensive education. Jodette and her family were left with few options, so they lived in the Extended Stay of America and Econo Lodge for the next 16 months.
But even through this, Jodette still had a reason to smile. Jodette’s oldest daughter graduated from Hillside High School in 2017, Suma Cum Laude, with a 4.3 GPA. She is now entering her sophomore year at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University(FAMU), located in Tallahassee, Florida.
In November 2017, Jodette’s middle daughter, a sophomore at Hillside, told the family’s story to her counselor, Mr. Juston Hill. Mr. Hill reached out to Cynthia Harris, Housing Resource Coordinator at Housing for New Hope, and told her Jodette’s story. The Rapid Rehousing team worked quickly to secure housing within two weeks for Jodette and her family.
Homelessness doesn’t just look like the faces you pass on the streets holding signs asking for spare change. It looks like Jodette. It looks like the faces of her three beautiful girls.
It’s been six years since the night that tore Jodette’s world apart. She has fought through the fear, tears, panic attacks, and uncertainty about where their family would lay their heads at night. She learned how to fight for herself and her family. How to cherish the good times and value the things that really matter in life. And that it’s ok to lean on someone if you need help. Jodette reports she is doing well and is currently looking for employment.
Housing for New Hope would like to thank Jodette for sharing her story of strength for the first time to the public at the Annual Breakfast.