“When I started this journey, I had no idea it would be so life-changing,” says Valda.

Valda was working hard to leave an abusive relationship and the CARITAS Emergency Shelter allowed her to do that safely. When Valda first came to the shelter, Dianna Thomas greeted her.

“We had been friends for more than 30 years and the fact that she was the first face I saw when I got in here was like a comforting blanket,” says Valda.

That was in early 2020 when the women’s shelter was still mobile, which, at the time, required guests to move from place to place each week. Then the pandemic hit and Valda moved to the Boys & Girls Club where CARITAS women’s shelter participants sheltered in place until the Women’s Emergency Shelter opened in the new CARITAS Center in December 2020.

“It was so hard to find housing so I moved in with my daughter,” she says. “After her circumstances changed, I came back to CARITAS in December 2021, knowing the doors were still open.”

Having a stationary bed with a dresser for her personal belongings made Valda feel at home as she worked with the CARITAS staff to connect to critical resources including medical care, social security, and even a computer for her remote-work job. While at CARITAS, Valda also had her right hip replaced and was able to heal safely in the shelter with regular visits from a physical therapist.

“They gave me the ability to save some money,” she says. “I was able to pay off debt and get a car.”

When Valda was ready to find a permanent home, the CARITAS staff connected her to emergency housing vouchers, a grant, and more. Valda says she formed strong bonds with other shelter participants, as well. They still go out to eat together every month together and she plans to have them over for a housewarming party soon.

“CARITAS gave me the ability to be confident and comfortable in myself,” Valda says. “I am so grateful to CARITAS for all of their support.”

Valda is actively pursuing new job opportunities in which she can apply her Mathematical Sciences and Computer Operation degree. After a second hip replacement in 2023, she looks forward to celebrating her granddaughter’s high school graduation.

“I’ve been homeless since 2017,” she says. “If I hadn’t gotten here I don’t know where I would be.”