Jess Beaudry was on the brink. But her fierce determination and the love for her family propelled her forward, on a path to reclamation.
“I can’t do it anymore. I am broken.”
These were the words Jess Beaudry spoke to a hospital receptionist in February of 2009, emptied and exhausted from a year of tragic personal loss, physical trauma and desperate financial straits. Things were about to get a lot worse.
For two years, Jess, her husband Frank, and their three children spent the cold winter months in a seasonal rental property and the warm months in a 20 year-old camper at a campground. Frank was searching for employment and Jess’s job as an office manager brought in little income.
“We were broke,” Jess says. “And when I say ‘broke,’ I mean we literally couldn’t buy milk.”
The living arrangements were far from ideal, but at that point Jess, a mother fiercely committed to her children, was content with anything that would give her family shelter, warmth and safety. The routine came crashing down when the campground disallowed use of their camper and an arrangement to use a replacement unit from friends fell through. Suddenly it was May, the Beaudry family had to be out of the winter rental and there were zero prospects for housing.
The previous year still hung like a millstone around Jess’s neck; 2008 had seen Jess deal with the devastating loss of her newborn niece, the sudden death of her best friend and a hit-and-run car collision (she was a pedestrian) that left her with chronic back pain. Now, one year later, she was staring at the harsh reality of homelessness.
“I was a depressed person with a conscience,” she says, recalling that brutal two-year stretch. “Sure, you want to just do something stupid, run away, maybe turn to drugs or alcohol, but I understood there were ramifications. I had my family to take care of. For them, I couldn’t give up.”
As summer broke, Jess and her family landed at Seacoast Family Promise.
"I had my family to take care of. For them, I couldn’t give up.”
“We are unique here because we are made up of local people helping other local people,” says Pati Frew-Waters, Executive Director of Seacoast Family Promise. “The social capital built through Seacoast Family Promise is what makes it both cost-effective and successful.”
As she began the Seacoast Family Promise program, Jess admits she was at the nadir of her life. “I was at my lowest point,” she says. “I spent a lot of 2009 in tears.”
The journey upward, however, began shortly after her intake. She and her husband owned a small tube television and a selection of DVDs, which provided an immediate icebreaker. Soon, the Beaudrys’ makeshift entertainment room (ever-changing, dependent on that week’s locale) became a destination point for fellow residents and friendships were formed.
“We still struggle and it’s still a process, but we’re getting better at it.”
Meanwhile, the Beaudrys engaged the resources made available to them, cultivating a stronger sense of financial wherewithal and methodically charting a course to fiscal accountability. Along the way, Jess arrived at some tough conclusions about her own personality.
“I am apparently a control freak,” she says. “It was so helpful for me to learn to let go.”
Their stay at Seacoast Family Promise would finish three months later. By the end of August, the Beaudrys had found a new home, Frank some steady work and Jess a better sense of perspective.
“We were not responsible adults when we started the program,” she says. “We still struggle and it’s still a process, but we’re getting better at it.”
Jess’s homelessness experience instilled in her a permanent sense of gratitude and in an effort to reflect what was given to her she had undertaken her own grassroots human service, collecting donations to give them away to families and individuals who are in need. She understands what it’s like to have nothing. She’s been there.
“There really is no better feeling than helping someone,” she says. “And this is my small way to help.”
By her own admission, Jess Beaudry was a broken person. And the reconstruction was painful. But her journey isn’t over and she has discovered a way to offer sustenance to her weary co-travelers.
“I could do this until I’m 90,” she says, folding a batch of recently-donated children’s clothes, spread across her kitchen table, “and I still don’t think I would be able to pay back what was given to me.”