I believe that sharing my story is part of my recovery and part of building the foundation for my future.

Trigger warning: sexual assault

Prevention Point staff really need to hear that their work matters. Especially the ones that sometimes had conflict with me, on those rough days! I want to now tell them thank you, and I love you. I really do.

I want everybody that I came in contact with there to know that I don’t believe I would be alive if it weren’t for that place. Sarah, Larry, Jul, Dr. Ben... all the people that told me my leg was really bad and that I had to promise them I'd go to the hospital. I probably would have frozen to death last winter if it weren’t for the four nights they stayed open and let us go inside.

I believe that sharing my story is part of my recovery and part of building the foundation for my future.

I had a pretty lucrative life as a dancer. I’d been with a company that was affiliated with the PA Ballet for awhile. Then I opened up a dance studio which I did very well with. It was very large and I had hundreds of students. But I went through a bad divorce and that pretty much tore my business down.

By the year 2000, I’d gone through a couple brutal surgeries and I was introduced to OxyContin. This was in the late 90s early 2000s. I had been a fitness guru; I’d designed a conscious weight loss program that went with my studio. I didn’t even so much as take Tylenol.

That all changed when OxyContin was introduced to me. I had gone through debilitating pain after my surgeries. I specifically remember the day that I was taken off of Percocet. I really didn’t feel as though I was using that much of it. I don’t feel as though taking a couple Percocet a day warranted OxyContin. But the doctors did because they were concerned about all the effects the acetaminophen would have on my liver.

It was snowing and I had no idea where I was going. I was wandering aimlessly in the streets. I had $2.50 in my pocket.

Safe, effective, non-addictive. Safe, effective, non-addictive. I specifically remember the conversation. And that’s the last thing I remember. I'm sitting here talking to you 20 years later telling you it was the furthest thing from "safe, effective, non-addictive." I became a white, upper-middle class, suburban business owner turned “junkie,” which I now call “opioid dependent,” rather than using the “junkie” term.

My dance studio deteriorated as the divorce came and the addiction progressed and then I didn’t work for awhile. I started to give private lessons again a few years ago and build myself back up and that’s when COVID hit. Everything was shut down. I was renting space in a building in Pottstown in which the foundation was cracked so they condemned the property. I had no income except some SSI. I wasn’t eligible for those PPE loans. I’d lost the building where I lived and had a decent little business in.

Over the period of a couple months, I went from person-to-person's house. I contracted COVID and ended up in Temple Hospital. It was two months since I’d had to leave the condemned property... everything hit the fan all at once.

When I came out of the hospital, I was in North Philadelphia and I had nowhere to go. I had zero resources, nothing... I’d heard a lot about Prevention Point. So in my mind, that was the only place to go. That’s how I landed in Philly — in immediate crisis. It was snowing and I had no idea where I was going. I was wandering aimlessly in the streets. I had $2.50 in my pocket.

I was always a winter girl until I became homeless and felt cold so cold it would make me cry.

I learned I could at least go to Prevention Point at the lot on Ruth Street for meals. I hadn’t thrown myself full throttle back into addiction yet but it came really quick. I was on the street in a lot of pain... I thought, I better develop some street smarts really quickly. All my clothes were taken in the first week. Everything. I was stunned when I'd go to PPP for a change of clothes and they’d tell me I could just throw my old ones away. And everyone always dreads going in a porta-potty until you realize there’s nowhere else to go in Kensington, Philadelphia. I had to learn to go between parked cars. I remember getting to the point where I didn’t care anymore. What else was I going to do?

Prevention Point was feeding me at least once a day at that point, and obviously I learned about morning coffee. It was at seven, nine, and eleven. Everyone knows the coffee times!

I was always a winter girl until I became homeless and felt cold so cold it would make me cry. I'd be standing there with men who were also crying from the cold. That very first winter I was homeless I remember being outside Prevention Point and someone had put a bean bag chair on the side of the porta-potties. Four of us girls sat on this bean bag chair. The blizzard lasted four days. They opened emergency code blue and put us in the basement of Prevention Point. We were so grateful to be laying on that concrete in the basement. Nobody else was opening up their doors, even the emergency shelters.

When I'm telling you that Ladies’ Night was the only thing giving me hope, any hope at all... it was the only time out of seven days in a week that I got to feel like a human being. They made us feel like princesses. Some of the women who worked on Wednesday nights would run out and come back with hair spray for me to spray my curls.

Last August in 2021, I realized people that I was sleeping around were all robbing me. So I decided I was going to go sleep by myself. I woke up some time between two and three in the morning. Someone had their hands under my armpits and they were dragging me backwards. They proceeded to rape me with a nine-millimeter to my head. Never in my life was I ever so scared. To feel that cold metal at my temple and someone telling me if I cried or looked up he was gonna blow my brains out. I thought, “This is it.” Somehow, he didn’t murder me.

I went in and saw Desmond with the PPP Testing Team the next morning. I was crying so hard. He was crying. He said he cried all day, and went home and cried all night. I went in the next day again and I was still crying. I wanted someone to talk to and listen to me about what had happened and Desmond was so kind. I wanted meds. I just needed somebody to help me.

I am far more resilient than I realized.

It's really important that people understand the importance of what you do. Look at the amount of services I got from Prevention Point: I was getting meals, clothes, emergency shelter, medical services, HIV testing, Hep C testing, my vaccine and my booster, showers, make-up, and people to talk to. Prevention Point was my life line for two years. If it were not for people doing what you all are doing, there would be nothing.


Now I am in the shelter system waiting for a voucher, which has challenges of its own. But I am absolutely in recovery... Methadone is healthy for me. For me it’s not about accountability; it’s just leaving the shelter every day and being around people. Isolation is not good... I like to get up, I like to get dressed and do my hair and makeup for what? For me and for the world to see. Yes! I’m still here! The girls and the doctors are nice to me, everybody knows me, people I used to get high with I'm now well with and they’re in my groups. Methadone works for me.

I got sober in January in Kensington at the Last Stop. I am far more resilient than I realized. I think I am handling coming back to life better than I thought I would. Now, I want to give back. I could never stand to see someone else suffer the way that I did. When you don’t have hope, you don’t have anything. I just want to help somebody get their hope back. It makes my heart flutter when I say that, and get little tears. And that is how I know that it’s right.

Note: April just notified us that she has received housing in a new apartment building and will move in this January. “It’s ironic how this time last year I was living in filth, and now I’m not only going to get a home but I’m going to have brand new construction,” April said. We couldn’t be happier for you, April!