Before the age of 18, Jessica had racked up a number of minors in possession and runaway charges, and had spent approximately 30 days in juvenile detention.
Her downward spiral continued for years. This culminated in 20 different arrests for crimes such as selling drugs and stealing, and she lived on and off the streets for much of her young adult life.
Born in 1984, Jessica grew up in Portland with her parents. Jessica’s father had severe alcoholism and her mother struggled with methamphetamine use. “I experienced a great deal of trauma and family dysfunction during my childhood,” says Jessica.
Jessica began smoking marijuana, drinking, and using cocaine at the age of 13 and entered her first inpatient 30-day treatment center at 14. But it didn’t stick. She began using heroin and had many older and abusive boyfriends along the way. Jessica bounced around from treatment center to treatment center.
After graduating from a year-long group home program, Jessica married while still in her teens. But as she slipped again into drug use, criminal behavior, and longer periods of incarceration, her marriage fell apart and she was alone again.
At 26, Jessica became pregnant and, despite vowing to never be someone who used while pregnant, she continued to use throughout her pregnancy. She got on methadone towards the end of her pregnancy, had her son, Jeffery, and was clean for two years after.
Jessica went back to school and was on a “good track.” But then she started using again. “I was at the lowest point of my life and had burned all bridges with my loved ones,” explains Jessica. Everything quickly snowballed when Jessica was picked up by the police shortly thereafter. Ultimately, seeing the path she was on and feeling defeated, she agreed to sign custody of her young two-year-old son over to a family member. Jessica found herself living on the streets. “It’s a very unstable feeling to be homeless. You can’t get too far when you don’t have a home,” says Jessica. “Housing is what provides the stability to address all the other needs.”
“It’s a very unstable feeling to be homeless. You can’t get too far when you don’t have a home. Housing is what provides the stability to address all the other needs.”
In 2012, Jessica turned to Central City Concern’s Hooper Detox Center and something finally clicked. From Hooper she joined the Recovery Mentor Program and graduated after four months. “The Mentor Program gave me my life back and my family’s life back. It restored a whole family,” said Jessica.
She and her young son reunited and received further critical family support from Central City Concern’s Letty Owings Center, where she learned parenting skills and grew into a mother who puts family first. At last, she felt safe and secure and ready to pursue an entirely different lifestyle with an altogether different future.
In October of 2013, Jessica got her first job as an on-call janitor at Central City Concern before landing a promotion as an employment specialist. She continued moving forward in her personal and professional life, most recently being hired as a hiring manager at a local company.
“Central City Concern helped me start to believe in myself. They were the only ones willing to give me a chance and offer me the tools to change my life.”
In 2016, Jessica moved out of Central City Concern’s family housing and became a homeowner. Before the end of this year, she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business.
“Central City Concern helped me start to believe in myself. They were the only ones willing to give me a chance and offer me the tools to change my life,” says Jessica. Throughout Jessica’s journey, her faith in God has given her strength, and today she’s committed to giving back. “On Sundays after church, my family goes downtown to hand out sandwiches and water to people living outside, because I know how meaningful compassion is for those in need, and for our community as a whole.”