Amid Homelessness, Two Find United Church Homes’ Brownstone Terrace

Sandy Crane (left) and Caroline Smothers (right) with United Church Homes’ Brownstone Terrace Housing Manager Jane Millisor.

Caroline Smothers and Sandy Crane have been down similar roads in life, but only one led them both to United Church Homes.

Caroline and Sandy both experienced homelessness before moving to Brownstone Terrace, a United Church Homes affordable housing community in Marion, Ohio. Sandy slept overnight in parks for three months, while Caroline bounced from one house to another.

When Caroline lost her rental apartment due to the landlord selling the house, she packed all her possessions in her car. She reached out to family members, but only her 88-year-old aunt was able to help.

She spent two weeks seeking assistance from local nonprofit organizations to find a home. The Salvation Army helped Caroline find a homeless shelter, where she would stay 30 days.

“For two days, I was really scared,” Caroline said. “I had my Social Security money, and I kept calling different apartment buildings asking how I could get in. I didn’t know about Brownstone at that time. When I moved here (to Marion), I knew where Walmart and Kroger were. But I was afraid to go anywhere.”

With money saved from her Social Security checks and a $100 donation from a local church, Caroline was able to afford the deposit and first month’s rent at Brownstone. It helped that utilities are included in the rent, which is very affordable based on 30 percent of an individual’s income.

After finding Brownstone, Caroline began packing and during her move saw UCH staff members bringing in donations of food. This solidified her faith that she was going to a good community.

Eventually, staff members of United Church Homes, including Brownstone Housing Manager Jane Millisor and Senior Staff Accountant Jennifer Ramey, were instrumental in helping secure donations of food and furniture for Caroline’s new apartment. Soon she found a companion in a dog named Willie-Mac, who’s affectionately known as “Prince Willie” at Brownstone.

“It’s hard to ask for help. I don’t want things given to me, but I was not in a good place,” Caroline said.

Caroline, a recovering alcoholic who has been sober since September, knew she needed to give up alcohol, and with the support of Jane, Caroline found a local Alcoholic Anonymous meeting to attend.

“When I first came here I wasn’t real happy,” Caroline said. “I didn’t know Marion. I didn’t know anyone. I knew vodka, and I leaned on him. But now I’ve been in an inpatient recovery program. Everyone at Brownstone has been so helpful and supportive. I don’t know what I’d do if I hadn’t found Brownstone.”

Sandy had lived in domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters. “It was really hard for me. I didn’t know if I could make it,” she said.

For Sandy, moving to Brownstone helped her get back on her feet. Brownstone’s service coordinator has been instrumental in helping her stabilize her life.

“There are good people in the world,” Sandy said. “If you hang in there, God will help you through it.”

This article is reprinted with permission from United Church Homes’ Spirit Magazine, Spring 2018.

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