With homelessness behind her, woman finds place in community -- Gazette.Net


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Shannon Matthews lived on the streets of Montgomery County for almost four years. She said it was a dark time in her life. Overcoming domestic violence and substance abuse was not easy, but Matthews said that with the help and support of community groups, anyone can do it.

“Back then, I was really in a dark place. I was really in bondage. Now, I am in a peaceful place. ... I don’t have to use [drugs], and I don’t have to be in an abusive relationship,” Matthews said.

Matthews, 47, now has her own place. She is one of the co-founders of House of Divine Guidance, a nonprofit organization that helps men, women, children and veterans re-entering society, and low-income families.

She also coordinated the first Celebrity Breakfast for Homeless in Silver Spring at the Montgomery County Progress Place facility on Friday.

“This is my way to thank the program in the community that served me by giving back ...,” Matthews said.

Eggs, waffles and bacon were part of the menu for 100 homeless people. The event — organized in part by Interfaith Works in Silver Spring — marked the closing of the Montgomery County Progress Place hypothermia shelter season at 8210 Colonial Lane in Silver Spring. It is open only during the winter.

“She is amazing,” Sandra Miller, administrative coordinator at Interfaith Works, said about Matthews before turning back to serve a glass of juice.

Matthews invited a local hero to serve breakfast and talk to the men and women who attend. The guest was Silver Spring native and Jacksonville Jaguars football player Joe Young.

“This is just about serving the community. ... It is the right thing to do. To give them a hot meal, it is the least I can do,” Young said.

After breakfast, clients thanked Young for visiting, took pictures with him and expressed their appreciation to other volunteers.

“If it wasn’t for this place, I wouldn’t be in the road of recovery,” said one client who will make the transition from homelessness to having a place to live in the upcoming weeks.

The clients could not be identified by their names due to the shelter’s privacy policy.

Throughout the year, the shelter offers computer classes and other services, such as 12 Step and Big Book Recovery classes, Intro to Microsoft, Art for the People, and Job Readiness. The place also has HIV testing and blood pressure screening by the African American Health Program.

Miller said approximately 50 men and 20 women stay at the shelter each night on cold days.

“We prioritize women,” Miller said.

Clients sleep in two separate rooms with security all night. After March 31, the shelter does not offer overnight stays, but different organizations will continue to serve breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner there. .

After Friday’s breakfast, Matthews hugged Miller, thanking her again for the support, and with a smile on her face, went on about her day.

“Right now, I am very self-sufficient. I am living in my own home. ... I love myself today,” Matthews said.

abarros@gazette.net