For a year and a half, Reginald Johnson fought the idea of turning to Sarah’s House, Anne Arundel County’s only family shelter, to help him and his four children get back on their feet.
The crisis in Johnson’s family revolved around his wife’s untreated addiction. It caused instability and hampered Johnson’s ability to work.
“I never felt safe leaving the children with their mother,” said the 55-year-old. “I didn’t want them to be around her when she was using. I did not want to take any chances.”
So for 18 months, he and his children stayed with friends or family. Their routine abruptly ended one summer night when a drug dealer threw a firebomb into a vacant Baltimore City rowhouse adjacent to where they were staying. Johnson and the children escaped, and he realized, “…perhaps I did not have the right people in my corner.”
The next day he scheduled a tour of Sarah’s House. He was struck by the peaceful atmosphere, the children playing safely in a magnificent park, clean apartments and rooms, and a welcoming dining hall.
“It was not at all what I imagined a shelter would be,” he said. Then he and his children moved in.
Johnson once again works as a cook at a local pizzeria. He is also accessing other job training opportunities sponsored by Catholic Charities and Sarah’s House. The required 40-hour work week is valuable structure, he said. His children are enrolled in school and in Catholic Charities’ Head Start program, and they love coming back to Sarah’s House at the end of the day.
Within a year, Johnson plans to move his family into an apartment in Anne Arundel County.
“They give you structure so that, when you go out into the world, you can look at things differently,” he said. “A lot of good has come out of this experience.”