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Amber’s Home

Dec 3rd, 2020 | Category: Peer Voices

I’ve been coming to Sunrise Church in Austin for a few years, first as a fugitive and more recently as someone who has found sobriety, housing and work through my connection to the Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center. I’ve also felt enfolded by the Sunrise church family and consider it my home base.

I grew up in Crosby and Deerpark, out by Houston. I’m an only child. My parents had a lot of money, so it was a comfortable situation. We traveled a lot growing up. My parents were Southern Baptist and I grew up heavily in the church. I left home when I was about 16 and got pregnant at 17. That’s when I decided to get married. My first husband and I were married for seven years. He had a drug problem, but coming from my naïve background, I had no exposure to drug use. He would party a lot and come back broke and drunk. Our bills were always late and it wasn’t a safe situation.

We somehow ended up in a polygamous cult. Everyone there was nuts, and no one was allowed to ask questions or state opinions. Women were basically supposed to stay quiet and that didn’t work out for me very well. I asked him for a divorce and while I was away for a doctor’s appointment, he took the kids. And that was the beginning of a very bad time. Only recently did I get to be with my kids again.

Back then, when there was no word from the police about where my kids were, the pain was too much, and I started drinking. It was the 90’s and everyone was doing coke, so I started dipping my cigarettes in it. I did a lot of acid. I would stay different friends with friends for weeks at a time, if you make the rounds like that no one gets tired of you.

For me, a really sad part of my drug addiction was prostitution. After being used for sex for so many years, I figured I might as well charge for it and take some version of control by getting something out of it. The depravity I was exposed to in that world has made it hard for me to have healthy relationships with men or women. It’s hard for me to even entertain the thought of a healthy friendship, much less a healthy marriage or sexual relationship. Once sex and relationships become like transactions, it is hard to restore your mind.

I was on the run from parole when I first got to Austin and my boyfriend was a drug dealer. Eventually, I was caught and was locked up for two years. After I was released, it was at Sunrise where I became much more stable. I’ve been on meds for a while which has been helpful. Ever since I started going to Sunrise, I’ve taken them regularly and its helped regulate me a lot.

When I got out of that marriage and cult, I had a lot of anger towards God. I had a distorted view of God for a long time and I still have to actively remind myself that he’s not who all these people portrayed him to be. It’s a lot of deprograming.

I only go to church at Sunrise randomly because of those feelings . In 2018, Pastor Mark “made” me go on the women’s retreat. Usually when I tell Mark I’m going to do something at church, I make up an excuse and cancel at the last minute. But this time, some of the church ladies busted through my excuse wall. I was fighting to get out but made it and have gone twice now. I actually got along with a lot of the ladies that went and we’re still friends. One of the Sunrise elders, Diane Bennett, has been like a mentor for me. Her family has shown me so much love and when its really cold or it’s the holidays, they sometimes even let me come over to their house. Her daughter colors my hair because I love to express myself through crazy hair colors.

Eventually, I decided to live out in the woods to get away from people. I work three days a week but try to not ever leave here. I’ll call in people to help get things to me, but I don’t like being out there in the “real world.”. It feels more dangerous to be there, with people, than out here in the wild. I’m not scared of anything that nature has out here. I’ve built myself a great home. I hike at night, with no flashlight. I go into caves, climb cliffs. There’s a pack of coyotes that live near my camp and I interact with them all the time – I have bowls of food, they’re like my pets. I can howl into the night and they will howl back, its awesome.

I’m moving into my new apartment at the end of this year, which is good because I’ve developed some chronic health problems and winter is cold sleeping outside. I guess I’m getting older. But I’m keeping my camp for the days I need some fresh air again. Someday, I want to save up enough money to buy some land and live off the grid.

Sometimes, I can’t stand being indoors -People who have lived outside can find it depressing to live inside. It seems strange, but homelessness is often so much more comfortable to me than having a place. This sort of solitude is how I feel safe and how I connect with God.











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1 Comment
Allissa Chambers
8 months ago

Dear Amber, I am grateful you shared your story.

It illuminates a LOT of untold realities.

For me, your story reveals why the term “Feminization of Poverty” exists, and how Misogyny — combined with Social Policy’s careLESSness toward CareGIVERS and Mothers plays a role in creating it.

I also relate to your sentiments of feeling safer in the Natural Environment — albeit, I’m grateful for the convenience and relative ‘safety’ that my “on-grid” home provides — realizing also that ‘safety’ ‘on-grid’ IS a mere illusion — particularly when warrantless intrusions exist, counties take homes via property tax foreclosures, and Medicaid silently levies liens against intergenerational homes targeted against impoverished aging peoples.

Amber, thank you again for sharing your cherished lived life experience. May you soon realize your dream of joyfully owning land and your home off-grid.

— Allissa