Lives Changed

Valerie Kelly:

Valerie KellyFor 50 years everything went well. I had been a truck driver, a trainer, a chef, a massage therapist, and an artist. Then over a two year period everything fell apart: My ex-husband died of cancer; he had always supported me and looked after me, and after twenty years of owning a home, I lost my house in foreclosure. I was in a relationship that became violent; my new fiancé beat me mercilessly and repeatedly over a year and a half; in the end he robbed me of everything I owned.

I had nowhere to go and no one to turn to, so I became homeless. I walked the streets of Redding for fourteen months during which two murder attempts were made on my life (I was poisoned and stabbed). Due to the trauma and the lack of resources, I had to leave Redding all together.

A friend said it would be better to be homeless on the streets of Albuquerque then in Redding, so I came to Albuquerque. My first month here was spent in a nightmare shelter, where I was given no help and no services. I ended up in the mental ward at UNMH, but only because they wanted me off of the property, I once again had nowhere to go.

I called the Barrett House and talked to Whitney, the Shelter Director. Since the first moment my foot crossed the threshold of the Barrett House, my life has changed markedly. By the time I got to Barrett, I was a wreck; I had no money or resources and I was in a place far from home, where I knew no one, and had no way to accomplish anything, but Whitney believed in me. Whitney and her staff have been professional, gracious, and compassionate towards me and my situation; I believe the staff and the
other clients at the Barrett House and subsequently at Casa Milagro have given me the encouragement, the support, and the resources I needed to help me to get back on my feet. I am forever grateful for all that the Barrett Foundation has done for me to help me along my journey toward self sufficiency.

I’m writing a book detailing my journey, entitled Standing on my own Two Feet: Recovering from Homelessness, Love and Drug Addiction, Motherhood, and Stupidity. I also plan to write a book to benefit Barrett Foundation to assist with transportation entitled Standing on OUR own Two Feet, success stories of individual homeless people.


kids at computersI was living with a family member, and she asked us to leave. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I called the Barrett House every morning until they had room available for my three young children and myself. We were at Barrett for approximately seven weeks; they extended our stay until we were able to get housing elsewhere.

The first week I was in Barrett, I met with Desiree, and she connected me with other agencies that could help me with housing; she was awesome and such a great resource! From the Barrett House I went to Family Promise for two weeks and was able to transition from there to my own place, set up through Catholic Charities. Barrett House gave me the tools and the encouragement to help get me into my own place. I used the tools that the staff at Barrett gave me and started working right away in order to find housing.

My greatest inspiration at Barrett was Whitney. Whitney started at Barrett while I was there, and she helped light a spark in me; she and Desiree make a wonderful team! All of the staff are there for support, to be someone to come alongside you and help you along. Barrett was a blessing in the midst of hardship. Being a guest at Barrett even led to growth in my children. The staff at Barrett House took the time to play with my kids. Lisa, a Barrett staff member, taught my son how to throw a football. Barrett House was a comfy and safe place to be. For that brief time, it became home to us.

Even though I’m happy to be in my own place, leaving the Barrett House was like leaving my family. Recently I went back to Barrett for a visit and while I was there the Executive Director, Michael, greeted me warmly me and asked me how I was doing and if we had everything that we needed now that we are in housing. Michael is such a warm human being; he made me feel welcome and well cared for. The staff at Barrett have been such a blessing to me that I hope one day I can give back to them for all they’ve done for me and my children.


little girl readingI was raised in a home where alcohol and drugs were rampant; my mother was an alcoholic and struggled with drug addiction, and my father was never really a part of my life. I started drinking when I was eleven years old. Two of my three siblings also struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, one of which has been in and out of prison for 26 years for drug related charges. I never even tried the hard stuff until my mom passed suddenly of cancer about eight years ago. Since then, I have become addicted to crack, to heroin, and to methamphetamines, and as a result I became homeless several times over the past 8 years.

A little over 3 months ago, I reclaimed my sobriety, and I left Colorado to get away from the drugs; this was a leap of faith for me, because I had nowhere to go in New Mexico; I just knew I couldn’t remain sober if I didn’t leave that environment. I immediately started to try find housing and I called around for help. Thankfully, I was able to get a bed at Barrett. Barrett is a beautiful place; it’s safe and comfortable. The staff at Barrett care about me and are amazing; they empowered me and pushed me to become independent; they believed in me and my potential.

Addiction took everything from me: my home, my job, my safety, and my children. I know that I have God’s favor as each of these things return in my life.

Today, just two months after I entered Barrett, I am living in my own home where I am safe, I have a case manager, I am in groups that support my sobriety, and I am able to spend time with my children every week; all thanks to God and to Barrett for supporting me.

If the staff at Barrett had not invested in me and given me their time and help, I wouldn’t have housing today. It’s important to me to do God’s work by helping others and sharing my story with you. Words simply can’t express how grateful I am for the Barrett House and the help I was given.