Comfortable in her skin: Formerly homeless, woman finds new life with Frederick Place
“I never would have seen myself a year ago doing this for a living, but now I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
By Eileen Persike, Editor
It was just over one year ago that Jennifer Davis’s admitted poor choices and legal problems brought her to the front door of Frederick Place in Rhinelander. Jennifer’s son had been removed from her home; she was arrested on narcotics charges and had lost her house.
“So I came here and they welcomed me,” she said, referring to the staff and residents of Rhinelander’s homeless shelter. Jennifer didn’t know Frederick Place existed until that day.
“It’s not what you picture when you think of a homeless shelter – I always pictured a soup kitchen with cots,” she said. It wasn’t long before Jennifer considered everyone at Frederick Place her temporary family.
“The other residents…we all got along great; we’d look out for each other. I never felt like I was homeless when I was there.”
The requirement that residents complete weekly tasks – some of which didn’t make sense to Jennifer at the time – created a routine and sense of accomplishment and eventually led to her own apartment and a job.
“I basically surrendered to it; I realized that what I had been doing with my life wasn’t working.”
Before her arrest Jennifer said she spent time at Lily’s House while being involved in an abusive relationship. Because of that abuser, her son was put into foster care. In September 2018 Jennifer’s legal troubles began.
“This is where I came to lick my wounds,” Jennifer said, adding that she is grateful for her time as a resident at Frederick Place. “It allowed me to be who I am without judgment. I could be honest and didn’t have to hold secrets.”
Sometimes, she said, coming from an abusive relationship, “You’re not sure what to tell anybody; but I feel so free now and they just supported that for me.”
Jennifer has even thanked the law enforcement officers who arrested her. “They saved my life,” she said.
In turn, the 44-year old military veteran wants to help others who may be at a crossroads in life and has the opportunity to do so as a house manager at the very place that changed hers.
“I would love to be part of that story for someone else. Of course they have to want it, surrender to it, be honest and be tired of running into the same walls,” Jennifer said. “There are opportunities to do some real good in people’s lives. I never would have seen myself a year ago doing this for a living, but now I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Jennifer has completed an AODA program and today continues with therapy. She is involved in the Women’s Health Outreach program, has her own apartment funded through Newcap combined with funding through the Veterans Administration, and has her son back.
“I’ve never felt so comfortable in my skin,” Jennifer said. “I can’t see myself going back to that life at all – and it started with the people here.”
Look for suggestions on how to help organizations that assist community members in need in the Nov. 6 Star Journal.