2009 was a turning point in Elizabeth’s life. She left St. Louis to come to a local residential treatment program to address her 20-year struggle with an eating disorder. Completing her treatment took 5 ½ months. At that point she realized that in order to continue on her road to recovery and stability, she needed a place that would continue to foster that in her life. She found that at Dove Harbor.
Through programming funded in part by United Way of Madison County, Dove Harbor provided Elizabeth a home in their transitional shelter for two years while she received individual therapy, life skills building and training, accountability and support options that would equip her to succeed when she graduated from the program. At the end of the two-year period she utilized another United Way-funded program at Dove Harbor that connected her to a landlord offering housing she could afford along with some limited-time rent assistance to aid in the transition to living independently.
“My life is so incredibly different now. It’s like night and day,” said Elizabeth. “I’ve been in recovery for six years and today I have a lot more confidence. I learned how to connect with people in positive ways. I gained a lot of tools for living, like how to stretch my dollars and be a good steward.”
Learning how to stretch dollars is a critical skill for Elizabeth. She loves her job as a teacher’s aide for special needs children, but when school is out for breaks, during the summer or for snow days she doesn’t get paid. Elizabeth shares, “When school is out, it’s a significant struggle. I don’t always qualify for help. I rely on Operation Love and Dove Harbor to provide whatever help they can during those times.”
Compounding Elizabeth’s situation is her struggle with various medical issues including problems with her back, arthritis and the need to wear hearing aids in both ears. Until recently she was without insurance and had to cover the total expense of needed procedures out of her own pocket. Today, with help of one of United Way’s Covering Kids and Families partners, St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital, Elizabeth was finally able to get health coverage through the state’s HIP 2.0 plan. For Elizabeth, having insurance means that additional money in her tight budget has been freed up.
Elizabeth has great hopes for the future, “I would like to go back to school. I hope to get to a point to be able to give back, particularly for those facing an eating disorder.” Her words of advice to others facing struggles they think they can’t overcome, “people don’t think you can come out of something like that but I’m a big believer that you can. It just takes a series of good decisions.”