Acts of compassion lifted woman from homelessness

Published: Thursday, Oct. 10 2013 7:20 p.m. MDT

There were relapses and a lengthy hospitalization for kidney failure, a gallbladder infection, malnutrition and jaundice.

"I was not expected to live," she said.

A caseworker called Vukas' daughter, and she came to her mother's bedside, telling the worker, "This is a call I had been waiting for."

Vukas' daughter, her boyfriend Tony, whom she had met while living on the river, and a number of homeless advocates kept a constant watch at her bedside.

When she was released from the hospital, Vukas began the hard work of substance abuse treatment.

Even though she had been in the fog of addiction while she was homeless, the kindness of caseworkers, volunteers, housing specialists and health care providers helped her believe she was a person of worth, she said.

At her lowest points, Vukas would call Snoddy and he'd meet her along the river, food and supplies in tow. She recalled the time he brought her a hot Thanksgiving meal.

"If he believed in me and helped me, I must be somebody," she said.

Through a work program managed by Valley Mental Health, Vukas works at Grace Mary Manor, a Salt Lake County Housing Authority project that provides permanent supportive housing for 84 chronically homeless individuals with disabling conditions. On occasion, she meets people much like her former self, men and women who are struggling with addiction.

"I had to see what I had been and what I never want to be again," she said.

Recently, Vukas was asked to help run a support group for people who have recently moved into permanent supportive housing.

"It's my turn to pay it forward," she said.

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com

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