Some argue trauma underlies all addiction and homelessness. 

Ed Walker shares an extract from his new book, A House built on Love, confronting the often hard-hitting nature of our work at Hope into Action.

When I think of the women’s house in Cambridge, I think of Susie, a young lass whom I helped move in on her first day with us. Susie was so lovely and so charming—and yet so broken at the same time. During the assessment phase, it was obvious that she desperately wanted to get a new home and make a new start.  When she moved in, she was so touched by the quality of the house that she broke down in tears saying, ‘I cannot believe you have done this for me. I don’t believe I am worth it.’

‘Well,’ came back the gentle reply from the church volunteer, ‘We believe you are. We think you are amazing, and we want to show you how much you are worth.’

Susie did really well for a couple of months, before hooking up with her old partner. They shared a love of crack and cocaine, and he would pimp her out in order to score. In the end, her stealing got her into trouble, and she returned to prison.

I remember cycling back one night crying out to God for her. She was clearly blessed with so much talent, charm and potential and yet could not seem to break free of addiction for more than six weeks. She had been through rehab, but then returned to heroin; she had gotten clean in prison on more than one occasion, yet every time returned to it.

I saw her around a fair bit after she had finished her sentence, and she would always greet me with a smile. She popped into our Cambridge office one day and got chatting in her usual bubbly way.

‘One of the staff told me you were pregnant, Susie?’ I said.

‘Yes,’ she replied, ‘I terminated the pregnancy. Best thing I’ve ever done.’

She seemed so positive about it, and we carried on talking. Within about three minutes, however, it became clear that she was putting on a front—and that her front was quickly coming down. She told me that she had two other children, who were both with her mum. Now she was beginning to wobble. Then she told me her brother had raped her when she was 13, and that her mother had never believed her. She was now so tearful that I did what most men do when confronted by an emotional female: panic.  I called for Jill, an experienced worker who has dealt with every kind of situation before, and she came and took Susie into the counselling room.

An hour later, Jill came out of the room looking as though she had been hit by a bus. She had listened to every detail of the termination. Women with addictions are allowed to terminate their pregnancy later than normal law allows. Susie recounted how she had seen the aborted foetus/child with its fully formed arms, legs, fingers and toes and had had a good enough view to recognize the gender. She felt devastated. She asked whether she had murdered her own son. Termination may be legal, safe and sanitized, but—whatever your views on it—it may be worth remembering the impact it can have on the mother (and father). The decision can haunt them for years—and with whom can they share their secret? Very often, sadly, it is a private grief they bury. For Susie, the rape 20 years ago was still haunting her, and on top of that, she was now trying to deal with the emotions that came with a termination.

Our job in those circumstances is to love the person and show them kindness where they are. We try not to judge them. Sometimes that is hard because our views and morals may not agree with their actions. It’s at these times one realizes how hard it is to follow the teaching of Jesus: ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.’[i]

If you would like to know more about how to come alongside someone dealing with the trauma of homelessness and its underlying causes, then book onto our conference on 20 March and come to Dr Ray Middleton's seminar.

Click here  to book your place!

[i] Luke 6.36–37