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The Red Door Stories-Sabrina

LU2A3059webAt just nineteen young years of age, Sabrina found herself sleeping under a bridge, alone in the cold, and pregnant. Born into a world filled with alcoholism, drug abuse, and violence, she had never known a life without utter chaos. And now, she too was bringing another new life into that same dark place.

As a child, she vividly remembers her father chasing her mother through the house, screaming at her, beating her, threatening to kill her… while Sabrina, her sister, and younger brother hid outside, huddled together in the recesses of an old dog house. “I can still smell the rotting wood,” she recalls, “and that horrible, sickening stench of wet dog hair.”

After witnessing her father’s death, a tragic hit and run accident, it is no wonder she, too, began abusing alcohol and drugs, despite that she was only ten, her own mother watching, approving, even assisting. By the time she managed to survive to the age of fifteen, she had become a seasoned drug dealer, selling whatever she could just to eat and make ends meet. IMG_7278web

This was her life. This was all she knew.

And then pregnancy. A baby. Born into a world of pain just like Sabrina’s, continuing a seemingly never-ending cycle of poverty and pain.

Trying her best to care for her newborn child, quitting drugs in a frustrating attempt to clean up her life, she couldn’t escape the people who kept dragging her back in. She became pregnant once again.
Despite somehow remaining clean and sober herself, a roof now over her head from a weekly motel room, she was reported and identified by Child Protective Services as risking the ongoing safety of her children. She lost both of them at once.

Even if it is in the very best interest of the children, it is painfully hard to imagine the torment a mother experiences in losing her children. At the same time, the children endured their own living hell, never understanding what was happening. Struggling desperately to put her life together, in the mere blink of an eye, her two babies vanished. She didn’t know where they were or if she would ever see them again. They were just gone.

She drifted, rehab to shelters, lost, empty, like a fallen leaf, blowing in the wind…until she landed upon the threshold of the red door.IMG_7293web

From the moment the red door of Saint John’s opened, everything began to change. For the first time in her life, Sabrina was surrounded by people who loved her, helped her, and showed her how to stand on her own two feet. Education, therapy, parenting classes, job and life skills, sobriety…things she never knew existed.

“They gave me my life back,” she whispers, tears streaming down her cheeks. “And then, the biggest miracle of all… my children were brought back to me. My babies…we are together again.”

Sabrina graduated from Saint John’s in 2016. Passing her high school GED, she landed a full time job and found security in her very own apartment.

“I changed from this broken, incomplete, frightened little girl…into a woman; sober, independent, con dent, employed and blessed. For my children, I am the mother…I never had. For the very first time, I am alive.”IMG_7225web

When a child is separated from a mother, the whole world shatters.

In putting the pieces back together again… a miracle gently unfolds.

dflanaganblogDavid Flanagan serves on the Board with Saint John’s. He is a co-owner of Misfit, a California-based brand/marketing agency. He is also the co-owner of Red Rocket AutoTech in Sacramento and Folsom.

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Sheila’s Story

Sheila, a 54-year-old native of Hawaii, has long been haunted by her younger brother’s untimely death at 18—something for which she blames herself. She has cowered under a shadow of whiskey and methamphetamine—a darkness that took control of her life for nearly 40 years before she found Saint John’s Program for Real Change. Sheila’s self-destructive behavior began in her teens. As a young addict, she dropped out of high school…



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Written by Abra Ruthenbeck, Director of Children’s Programs, Saint John’s Program for Real Change “Break the cycle of poverty and dependence one family at a time”. As the Director of Children’s Programs, I whole-heartedly agree with the Saint John’s Program for Real Change vison statement and I see it working every single day. At Saint John’s we are always asking ourselves, how can we measure outcomes? How do we know…


Meal time at Saint John’s

Written by Ursula Whitfield, Director of Operations, Saint John’s Program for Real Change Meal time is a big deal here at Saint John’s for Real Change. Although we are on a shoestring budget and heavily rely on the generosity of our donor base, we somehow manage to feed all of the women and children we serve every day a nutritious meal. We follow the food guidelines of the California Department…


An Open Letter to the Next President of the United States

Written by Michele Steeb, CEO, Saint John’s Program for Real Change Dear Madam or Mr. President-To-Be: Homelessness is one of the least talked-about problems in your campaigns so far. By every credible report, homelessness is ripping holes in the fabric of the country you’re about to lead. The good news is that it can be practically managed if we stop trying to address it with a one-size-fits-all solution. National data shows…


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