Crystal Nevins never had a drink until she was 26. Though both her parents were alcoholics and the other adults in her life could not be counted on, she resisted.
However, “once I took that first drink, I opened the box.”
Now, at 41, Nevins is living in the Young Women’s Christian Association shelter. She has been at the YWCA since September. She chose to stay in Wenatchee, rather than moving back to Omak to her beloved granddaughter, because of the potential hurdles she would face at home.
“I knew I had another relapse in me, but I didn’t have another recovery in me,” she said. So, Nevins opted to stay in Wenatchee and help herself first.
“It feels good to be around people that have an addiction and are willing to acknowledge it,” she said. “They’re like my sisters.”
One of the YWCA’s main goals is to help women get back on their feet. In doing so, they help out a variety of women across the valley. Perhaps it is because of this that Nevins has gotten a lot of weird looks from friends and others when they learn of her living situation.
“Why? Why are you there? You don’t look like you should be in a homeless shelter’” is a common question she hears.
“People view a typical homeless person as someone in the alley, all dirty, and garbage bags are what you live out of,” she said. In actuality, it’s “no different than stereotyping races.”
“Each woman that comes in here has a story to tell,” she said. “A lot of times it is not our fault. It is not our choice that we ended up here. It’s because whatever circumstance brought you to this place had to have been pretty darn bad.”
Though Nevins initially came to the shelter to rehabilitate from alcohol, Nevins’ main problem right now concerns something else entirely — years of domestic abuse has rendered her back to be almost useless in a work environment.
“If my body was the person it was 10 years ago, I would be working my butt off. I would have two jobs. I don’t want it to be like this, but it’s just the way it is,” she said.
Nevins underwent neck surgery about a year and a half ago. Although she is recovering, there is the possibility of yet another operation in the near future.
Still, that hasn’t stopped her from doing her part at her “home.”
“Ultimately, I realized that my life is worth more than I ever really thought or cared it to be,” she said.
Jeric Quiliza spent the past year as an AmeriCorps volunteer in the Eastmont School District. He writes about homeless issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org