Contributor vendor Shawna is a young woman whose life has been hard. But her past – which includes foster care – and present life as a mother are motivation to make a new life for herself in Nashville as she currently experiences homelessness.
Born in Nebraska, Shawna was placed in the foster care system just shy of her seventh birthday. “I was molested and the state took me away from my parents,” she explained. She bounced in and out of homes until she was adopted at age 12.
But, her adoption wasn’t what she had expected. “I liked it at first but when I became a teenager, I started hating it,” Shawna said. “My adopted mom hit me from the time I was 13 to the time I moved out. My adopted dad would stick up for me but my adopted mom hated it.”
Shawna initially had visitation rights with her birth parents, but she stopped seeing them when she was adopted because the rights were terminated. She felt completely alone in her situation.
In 2005, Shawna turned 21 and moved out. “I got a job as a dishwasher and an assistant cook in a nursing home so that I could pay for my place,” she said. “My dream was to go to college, but I could not afford it because I had to pay for my own place.”
Then, two years later, she was fired and got pregnant with her first child. The lack of money forced her to move out of her apartment. With the child’s father out of the picture, Shawna moved in with family for a time, but eventually had to move out. She bounced around homes for a while until she finally was left homeless with a baby on the way.
“It was so hard, especially because it was my first child,” Shawna said. Circumstances led to her son being taken in by Shawna’s adoptive parents. “I got a job, and I would work every other weekend so that I could see my son. It worries me that he is with my stepmom, but he is in a stable environment and he is safe. He isn’t out with me on the streets,” she said.
Shawna went on to have two more children, in 2008 and 2013, and spent some of her time in those years living with her biological parents, who she had reconnected with. Her two youngest children now live with her mom and sister in Tennessee.
In 2013, she arrived in Nashville. While seeking shelter at the women’s mission, she first heard about The Contributor and soon became a vendor.
She said, “I love selling papers. At The Contributor, they give us the option to write poetry, and I never really liked poetry but since I have been writing it, I have learned to love it.
“My favorite part about working for The Contributor is making new friends. I met a lot of nice customers. I would like to thank them for all the help and I pray that each of them keep helping because it goes a long way.”
In five years, Shawna hopes to be off the streets with a permanent place of her own. In the meantime, she said that she isn’t planning on dating as she focuses on achieving her goal of housing.
Another goal is to be in a place where she can see her children whenever she wants. She has been traveling back and forth for about a year to visit with them. “Traveling is hard, but I love my kids and want to see them,” she said.