When Ms. Gigi and her two teenaged kids moved to Jacksonville from Louisiana, they came for a new beginning but quickly ran into trouble with rent she couldn’t afford. They moved around from place to place for a while, but what they really needed was a safe and stable place to land while they got on their feet and Ms. Gigi finished school. A licensed LPN, Ms. Gigi is in night school to get her RN license. But this makes it difficult to find a job flexible enough for her school schedule and childcare needs.

After coming to the end of her options, she realized she needed to seek help.

“So I prayed. I did some research looking at different places. I started calling around and The Salvation Army was recommended to me. At the time we were in a hotel, but I knew that couldn’t last long. When I got the word that a room was available at the Red Shield Lodge and we came here I didn’t have a clue what to expect. But when we got here I saw that it was clean! It wasn’t at all like what you see shelters looking like on T.V! I was shocked to see that we would have our own bathroom in the room, and we had a room, not a dormitory. We had privacy. I was like, ‘Wow, this is going to be good!’ I believe without a doubt that this is where the Lord really wanted us to be at this time to get some things together.”

“At first it was hard for my daughter. She didn’t want her friends to know that she was in a shelter. But I told them it’s temporary to help us get where we need to be.  It was hard for me to see her cry. But then I prayed and a song came on her playlist. It said everything was going to be alright. From then on she was fine and started telling her friends, “I’m at The Salvation Army”.

At The Salvation Army Ms. Gigi and her family are finding more than just a safe place to stay. They also feel great support and community from the other residents at the shelter.

“I like that The Salvation Army is based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s something that I really love. We have the opportunity – the ladies who want to – we get together and pray. And then we have Bible study. We started meeting after lunch in the family room and going over the Daily Bread and praying together. I’ve been looking at the different people here and, you know, all of us come from different backgrounds. Everybody has something different going on in our lives and we need different things. This place is about more than just having a place to live – we have inner things that need to be dealt with. If we get that taken care of, then once we leave we won’t have to come back. We won’t go thought that cycle over and over. This is about breaking the cycle.”

This time next year Ms. Gigi says her dream is to be graduated from her RN program and feeling settled in Jacksonville. She also wants to continue to help the women at the Red Shield Lodge shelter. “Even after I leave I want to come back and help minister to the people who are here to help move them along. And I believe my testimony will be all the stronger because I can say, ‘Oh no, I DO know. I was in room 116’. I lived the story.”

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