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GROW Story: Amelia Juner

Picture of Amelia Juner, GROW Concord Participant

Hello, my name is Amelia Juner.

I usually go by Amy. I grew up in Concord, living a “normal” life in a house with my family. My family consisted of my dad, mom, 2 older brothers, and my twin sister. I had a normal childhood and was pretty innocent until I left Concord to go to college. This is when substance abuse, mental health challenges, and many negative choices started showing up in my life. The freedom and lack of support made it easy for me to fall prey to parties, irresponsible decision making and ultimately poor physical and mental health.

There have been many ups and downs in my adult life, but to sum it up in a phrase I would have to say: “it's been a struggle.” There were times when I felt like I was doing the right things to get my life together, but mostly I just did what I had to do in order to survive. I never learned to care enough about myself to achieve what would have brought me back to a baseline lifestyle.

This empty spot where self-worth was supposed to be, was soon filled with a string of abusive relationships– mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially abusive–and with pre-existing mental illness, my lifestyle led me down a road where I lost custody of my son, abused any and all available substances, and became homeless for a number of years. 

The one bout of homelessness where I lived in my car, the standards I had for myself were at an all-time low. This is partially because I just couldn't do what a housed individual could to take care of myself. Even if I wanted to. I didn't shower for four whole months at one time. I heated my car (which did not run) with a propane stove and anytime I had to use the restroom I needed to find a public one. I had to make sure to not frequent any restroom too much and get banned from the business for being a homeless person only there to use the facilities. If I had any money, I’d try to buy something just to feel justified in using their restroom. Keeping up any sort of appearance like being a hirable citizen was close to impossible.

So, I finally got tired of living this way and I decided to do one thing that was productive each day. This would surely not bring me any further down in life. I made sure to take care of myself and I started to attend the meals that GROW held at local parks 6 times a week. This is where I found warmth, community, and most of all faith and hope that I could have a better future, and also that I DESERVED a better future.

GROW’s love has taught me to love myself again. After a while, I began to volunteer with GROW and this gave me purpose and also a network of support. There are some volunteers who I really hit it off with: Doreen-she helped me to feel better about myself and we spent a lot of time talking and connecting on a personal level. Julia who tucked me under her wing and also had me help assemble the infamous hygiene kits. Kelly and Andie who started it all and have always been there for me when I was in need. And Linda J of course, she has actually become many things to me including an employer, a mentor, and a friend.

These volunteers and their grassroots nonprofit outreach have helped me and continue to help me in the ways that I need help. That's what they do- meet people where they are at and support them in what they need to get through. Whether that's supplying tents, sleeping bags, clothing, food, and water or making sure that they have access to showers or laundry.

All these things are extremely helpful when unhoused and wanting to better your life. If the unhoused spent their time trying to find a shower to use or the money to do laundry, they wouldn't be able to spend time on things like getting a resume done or looking for housing. GROW provides what it takes for an unhoused individual to make actual progress in life. I’m an example of this.

Now, I live in a home with my son again and I am working and going to school to start a career that I am very excited to do. GROW ignited this spark within me to start me off in the right direction and for that I will forever be grateful.

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