Editor's Note: For several charitable organizations, the holiday season — like the rest of the year — is a time to help those dealing with some of life's toughest problems and providing solutions to those problems. In the week leading up to Christmas, the News Tribune is using its "A Christmas Wish" series to showcase individuals whose lives were impacted by United Way of Central Missouri partner agencies and donors.
Mary Lee Goldman came to Missouri trying to leave her old life thousands of miles behind her, and with the help of The Salvation Army's Center of Hope shelter, she's building the new, addiction-free life she wants in Jefferson City.
Goldman, 57, left Palm Springs, California, and arrived in Springfield last year via bus. She said she used to have problems with drugs and alcohol, and "came here to find a new life."
She bought a 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix for $500 in Springfield, and after a time there, continued on the road with her search for the kind of life she wanted.
After her last stretch of travel on the road — "I hadn't had a shower in three days when I got here" — Goldman said she stopped at a local gas station to charge her phone, searched online for a shelter and found it in the Center of Hope. "I just wanted a place to be safe and warm," she said.
She found that and more since she arrived March 13 at the Center of Hope, adding she's been sober and clean of drugs since then, and she credits that to being where she is.
"They've helped me get ready to move out on my own," Goldman said of the staff at Center of Hope.
The homeless shelter offers a wide range of services, resources and positive attitudes, and Goldman cited life skills classes taught by a banker or counselor; praise at meetings for people who've opened bank accounts or found housing; mental health resources; vouchers for gas for her car; and free food, clothing, bedding and toiletries — much of it donated — among the resources at her fingertips that have helped her.
The 31-bed shelter for single men and women and families with children also offers three daily meals, individualized case management and some extra capacity for people off the street to have a place to sleep during periods of extreme heat or cold.
Goldman said she's hoping to move into an apartment of her own, something that costs less than $400 a month. She said she's tried to apply for assistance through public housing, but with no funding for the state's program, she is at the top of a wait list.
She added she's not eligible for assistance through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development until she's 62 years old, because of prior drug convictions on her record.
Goldman said she does have some money saved up, though, and she's looking forward to being able to kick back and relax in a clean two-bedroom place — not every apartment she's looked at has been clean or free of cockroaches, she said.
"I just want to be able to do the normal things in life," such as "normal shopping," she said. She said she likes remote-controlled helicopters as a hobby.
Document: Salvation Army 2016-17 AuditView
She said she would consider volunteering, but any money she earned through employment would be deducted from the federal disability pay she receives — she got state benefits in California, but not in Missouri. She also said she receives assistance through Medicaid.
In the meantime, Goldman said she continues to do the laundry at the Center of Hope — a chore she volunteered for — and helps people at the shelter with rides to work.
Her Grand Prix has 266,000 miles on its odometer, but she said she's been able to take care of some of the regular maintenance for it, such as new tires and an oil change.
Goldman said she's used to helping people with her car, adding, the vehicle's too old to be considered for use by a ride-hailing service such as Uber.
Goldman said she plans to stay in Jefferson City once she's out on her own. "I really like it here," she said of the city where her journey from California has ended and where her new life will begin.
In this series:
Center of Hope helps woman start new life