Growing up in Harlem was not easy for Patricia. A culture of poverty, drugs and alcohol did little to inspire a positive vision for the future. And while her parents did the best they could, they just didn’t know how to show love and affection. Instead, they would feed her treats or buy her things.
In Patricia’s words, she grew into the “heavy little smart girl” that was picked on.
As she got older, Patricia hit a rough patch in life and turned to drugs and alcohol. Patricia explains, “It was my choice, because I didn’t have the type of love that I received when I became homeless and came to Water Street Mission.”
“I emerged into who I’m supposed to be. Who God has me to be.”
Patricia came in through the emergency shelter and pretty much kept to herself. However, her life coach, Ruth Vega, pursued her and began walking alongside Patricia.
Ruth and Patricia’s Case Manager helped her create a plan and connected her with the help she needed to remove the obstacles on her new path.
Years of drugs and alcohol and a lack of self-care had taken its toll on Patricia’s dental health. With bad periodontal disease, it was determined that she needed to have all her teeth extracted and replaced with a set of dentures.
Despite an intense fear of the dentist, Patricia would visit Water Street’s dental clinic multiple times in a week. There, in addition to taking care of her dental issues, the staff prayed with Patricia and got to know her. As Patricia puts it, “Not only did I sit there to get teeth. I sat there and received a family… a family that cares about my health.”
Water Street’s Dental Services Administrator, Tina Nissly, recalls, “I’ll never forget the morning when we gave her the final product. She was just smiling from ear to ear and just kept saying, ‘Thank you. Thank you for allowing me to be able to smile and chew again.”
From that point, Patricia was able to stabilize herself and work and keep her job. At 54, Patricia is clean and sober and closer to God than she’s ever been. She works as a Certified Nursing Assistant at a nursing home and has moved into a cozy home of her own.
Ruth Vega summed up Patricia’s story perfectly, saying, “She’s just a woman with a plan and there’s just no stopping her. The only person that I can blame for that tenacity is really the Lord.”