UnBoxing Project: Surviving and Thriving on the Outside
Eleanor Skelton blogs at eleanorskelton.com, is the news editor of the UCCS student newspaper, and is majoring in English and Chemistry. The following was originally published on Eleanor’s blog on April 7, 2015, and is reprinted with permission.
I came from an upper middle class, well-educated family. I was privileged.
I moved out as a college student with a couple of jobs on campus after my parents emptied my savings account. Most of the people the Underground Railroad helped were in similar circumstances.
Our counselor friend Sandra, who was in graduate school when I moved out, talked to me a week after I left. I didn’t have a car and was bicycling everywhere. She taught me how to take care of myself when I was broke.
These resources helped all of us stay independent on a low-income budget.
- Food pantries and food stamps
When my paycheck barely covered rent and gas or three other girls were living out of our tiny apartment, we couldn’t afford food. Mercy’s Gate, American Charities, and other Care and Share pantries felt like small miracles. There’s even Peak Pet Pantry for cats and dogs. And El Paso county provides SNAP benefits (food stamps).
- Cellphone plans like Straight Talk, Wal-Mart Family Mobile, and Tracfone
Our monthly bills were between $30-40, or we used pay as you go.
- Dollar stores
One day my friend Josh issued me a challenge: go to a dollar store and see what they sold. It was so eyeopening that now I take other refugees there, showing them what a dollar can get in a pinch.
- Thrift stores
Here in Colorado Springs, we have the Arc and Goodwill, and places like Promises Resale Boutique that benefit disadvantaged teens resell the leftovers from bigger thrift stores even cheaper.
- Temporary agencies
Our little band of cult refugees all needed jobs, but I didn’t know what temporary agencies did until one winter when I was down to only one of the three jobs from the summer. Then I got a call from Front Range Staffing.
They’d found my resume on Monster and wanted to hire me for a receptionist position at a pharmaceutical company, something related to my chemistry degree. They also gave me odd jobs like hotel housekeeping for extra money, enabling me to support myself.
- Housing / utilities assistance
Most cities have section 8 housing. El Paso County also has LEAP, which provides heating assistance in the winter.
Several major companies like Comcast and CenturyLink also offer low-income internet service. This website even gives a comparison chart.
- Mental health
We wrestled with anxiety, self-harm, PTSD, and survivor’s guilt. But we found counselors on campus and in the community who worked on a sliding fee scale, who wanted to help us heal most of all. Due North Counseling was one of the local places that helped us.
We also found many organizations in Colorado Springs had resources also.
The 24/7 crisis line (719-633-3819) offers advice to abuse survivors, although they mainly deal with intimate partner violence.
- DHS / CPS / Adult Protective Services
In El Paso County, call (719) 444-5700 or 1-844-CO4KIDS or email firstname.lastname@example.org to report child abuse.
- Inside / Out Youth Services
Provides housing for homeless LGBT youth under 25 and other resources.
- The Independence Center
Provides services to empower people with disabilities.
On the outside, we formed our own little family, a chosen family rather than by blood.
Dale Fincher, who talks about recovery from spiritual abuse at Soulation, writes in The Exodus From Family:
“When our biological family puts a brake on friendship, we must look for friendship elsewhere. This year, I am no longer defaulting to blood and legal relatives as my ‘ohana. They will not lock me into a family orphanage until I conform to their demands. No. My family has become my Chosen Family, for we cannot live as orphans (John 14:18).”
A theme that resurfaces in the dialogue about spiritual abuse is Christian fundamentalism’s idolization of family values over the well-being of the individuals within the family. The family unit’s survival becomes the trump card, enabling denial of abuse.
We learned we could all find freedom together.
No, we couldn’t save each other or support each other–we all had to ultimately find our own way because all of us are broken and hurting.
But we knew we weren’t alone.
Sometimes a hug, a shoulder to cry on enabled us to just keep walking, to not give up.
Even if we were outcast, we believed our experiences were valid, we grasped for something better.
And we wanted to share this new life, this freedom with others.
R. L. Stollar, one of the founders of Homeschoolers Anonymous, wrote:
“I learned that Jesus of Nazareth was not content with 99 sheep when 99 sheep means that one gets left behind to suffer in silence and solitude. [….] But Jesus dealt with human beings, not statistics. Human beings are what I want to deal with, too. […] Us “bitter apostates” will be out in the wilderness, searching for the one you abandoned.”
And that is what we did, too.
End of series.