Homelessness Wears Many Faces

When a reporter from the local news station called wanting to do a story on a homeless individual receiving help from The Salvation Army of Metro Atlanta, the person we suggested didn’t fit the “grizzled person pushing a shopping cart” stereotype.

Mary Jo Eidson, in fact, is poised, well spoken, and even fashionable. She speaks quietly and conveys a great sense of grace and humility.

Mary Jo and her teenaged daughter are clients of the Home Sweet Home program in Gwinnett. Home Sweet Home provides shelter and basic necessities for families with children who are newly homeless or at immediate risk. The program helps families to return quickly to financial self-sufficiency and improves their prospect of long term housing stability. The support of caring donors, like you, allows us to have the Home Sweet Home program.

When the reporter and the camera man first met Mary Jo she was in her element – again, a scene far removed from the stereotypes – a local horse farm. It was a very damp, windy and cold afternoon with a few horses grazing off in the distance. The camera man asked her to stand there so he could film the horses in the back. We were very careful as Mary Jo walks with a cane and the overgrown grass made it difficult for her to navigate.

“You know they call me the horse whisperer,” Mary Jo said. She began to call to the horses in the distance. The camera kept rolling as she beckoned them. The horses began to come one by one, until each had come close and ate grass from her hand. We were told that horses almost never come to strangers.

Mary Jo explained that she had had a successful business as a horse trainer and gave pony parties in Florida. But one afternoon while she was driving in her car, a refrigeration unit fell from a truck traveling in front of her. When she swerved to avoid hitting it, her vehicle flipped leaving Mary Jo with serious back injuries.

Mary Jo’s livelihood was completely interrupted as she could no longer train horses, break them in or manage her horse farm. To receive better medical treatment, Mary Jo and her daughter relocated to Atlanta. “The pain was unreal but I knew after surgery I would be able to return to Florida and catch up on my bills and restart the business,” said Mary Jo.

Unfortunately, things for Mary Jo got worse. The surgery provided little relief from her pain. The friend where she and her daughter had been staying required them to move out. In addition, another surgery was required and Mary Jo’s insurance was being cancelled.

“I said to my daughter we only have $80. We can spend it on a hotel or get something to eat,” Mary Jo remembers. That night the two ate at McDonald’s and slept in the car in the parking lot. When her daughter finally fell asleep, Mary Jo said, “I cried and cried and asked God for help.”

The next several days were tough. Then a friend told Mary Jo about The Salvation Army. At the Lawrenceville Corps, Director of Social Services Deborah Wengrow helped Mary Jo and her daughter enroll in the Home Sweet Home program.

The program has provided Mary Jo and her daughter with a safe and nice home. “We don’t have everything like lots of pots and pans but we have a roof over our head and we have each other,” Mary Jo said with a smile.

Mary Jo continues to express her gratitude for the program and how it has allowed her and her daughter to feel normal again. “The Salvation Army has been wonderful to me and Home Sweet Home has been an answer to my prayers.” Thanks to our loyal supporters, we were able to help Mary Jo and her daughter in their time of need.

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