Second chances have come by Clarissa Lucas more than once over the last 13 years.
This holiday season, the 33-year-old is grateful for another chance to escape a time of living under bridges, using drugs and being behind bars in prison.
The mother of two, ages 9 and 12, known on the streets as “Glitterbear,” found a helping hand and encouragement from Catholic and Christian homeless ministries that led her on the path of finding a home and chance to be a parent.
“Without them, I don’t know where I’d be today,” she said of the Denver Homeless Ministry, founded by Catholic Tanya Cangelosi, and Dry Bones Denver, a Christian ministry that helps homeless youth receive needed resources, food and companionship.
“I don’t consider them acquaintances or friends—they’re family,” Lucas said.
Without their help, or strength from God, she’s not sure where she’d be this Christmas.
“God did it all,” Lucas said.
Cangelosi said Lucas was given more than items she needed over the years. She received friendship.
“She became my friend. It’s a huge difference for somebody living on street,” Cangelosi said. “It’s not just helping people on the streets but becoming their friends.”
The key is not to treat homeless as a separate group, but as a neighbor, she said. Cangelosi also took Lucas on a trip to Rome in March with Father Michael O’Loughlin, pastor of Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Church in Denver.
“It’s almost as if she came back with the strength to do anything,” Cangelosi said.
Lucas’ trouble began at a young age when she lived in an abusive home. When 19 years old, she met her ex-husband and had two children with him. During their relationship, they lived on and off the streets, and he was also abusive, she said.
“I was traumatized. We were on the streets, and off and on through my pregnancy and after son was born,” she said.
She experimented with methamphetamine and ended up in jail for menacing with a weapon. She realized, while in jail, that she wanted to change her life and provide for her children, who were living with her mother at the time.
“I missed them, and I wanted to be a mom again,” Lucas said.
In February, she was chosen for government housing and was recently told she would receive permanent housing next year. While she’s on government support now, she’s actively hunting for a job.
She will appear in a film called “Lost in America,” in which she shares her experiences as a homeless woman on the streets of Denver. U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, is using a trailer of the film in which she appears, scheduled for release in the fall of 2015, to urge Congress to pass legislation to help homeless youth.
This Thanksgiving was the Lucas family’s first together after years apart. Donations from friends enabled them to have cooking supplies and enough food for a meal, plus some additional items to decorate for Christmas.
“My daughter was helping a little bit with the cooking. I felt like I had my family,” she said. “I now feel like I can start over.”
She said she continues to thank God.
“I talk to God a lot,” Lucas said. “He never leaves you.”