Melissa is a participant of Goodwill Industries of Houston’s Female Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program I was a victim of an aggravated sexual assault in the first degree with a deadly weapon. I had a gun put to my head, tied up after being sexually assaulted and told I was never going home. I decided to move from Henderson, TX, down to Houston. My family and I didn’t have anywhere to go, and stayed in a car that belonged to my mom. I didn’t want to put my daughter in that situation.
My duties at Goodwill are working and hanging and grade, sorting clothing and sometimes doing wares. I have worked at Goodwill BridgePointe for 21 years altogether. I ride the bus back and forth to work every day. I like working at Goodwill with the other workers — I have always liked everyone I have worked with. I feel good that I have been able to keep a job this long. I feel more independent having my job at Goodwill in BridgePointe. I don’t like to rely on other people, and I’m proud to be on my own.
Before I came to Goodwill Easter Seals, my life was a disaster. I had no job, no income, no substance in my life and no foundation. What brought me to Goodwill was my child support counselor. She directed me to a number of programs that involved fathers because I needed to establish some income, and I needed my driver’s license. One of the numbers they gave me was Goodwill’s FATHER Project. The FATHER Project was a place where I got a place to know myself, to get to explore myself and understand my rights as far as being a father.
Before coming to Goodwill®, I was out of work living in Hahira, GA, and struggling just to get gas money to come to Valdosta to look for a job. My primary work experience included auto sales and finance collections — I had 17 years in auto sales and 13 years in finance. To my disappointment, I was unable to find a job in those fields. I began looking at other careers, but my age of 65 seemed to hold me back, as many employers wanted to hire at younger ages. Besides being 65, I’m also a disabled veteran, so there were some physical requirements I was not able to meet for a lot of job openings.
I had major back surgery, where I had a disc taken out of my back. They took two bone grafts out of my hip. I was on full disability for about eight years. The doctors had said I would never work again, and I gave up on things, started doing drugs and ended up going to prison. In prison, I worked out every day. I started benching 350. When I got out of prison, I wanted to go back to work and get off disability. I went to rehab, and they sent me to MERS Goodwill to help me find a job that would be suitable. I could have gone back to construction, but how long was it going to take before I injured myself again? All I knew was construction — that was all I did most of my life.
I was born in Omaha, NE. I really don’t remember too much about my childhood life, but starting around ages 12-17, I found myself out of control. I went through the juvenile justice system, including youth centers and group homes, to help me learn to respect authority. I fell into gangs and violence. I didn’t really like school much, so I had problems there too. As I began to get older, I began to start settling down and trying to figure out what I was going to do with myself. I tried to slow down, go to school and get good grades, and I needed some assistance to motivate me more and keep positive.