Finding Freedom Within a Community: How Justine Landed a Dream Job through Solutions for Change

Justine Mackey spent years searching for stability. Each time she thought she had found a foothold, drugs and alcohol knocked her back down. She bounced in and out of treatment and rehab but could never completely escape The Churn.

Eventually, Justine recovered from her addiction and maintained her sobriety, but something was still missing. She found herself on the brink of homelessness.

“I may have been clean, but I had a dangerous chip on my shoulder,” Justine said. “I wasn’t approachable, and I didn’t have the skills to sustain myself.”

After moving around to various transitional housing locations without much progress, Justine finally turned a corner when she found Solutions for Change.

“In order to gain some independence, I needed a supportive community,” Justine said. “And now Solutions is like my family.”

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Justine needed to be at Serenity House to overcome her addiction, but once she was able to keep her sobriety, she knew she needed a new environment. Typical transitional housing didn’t push her to work on herself or develop self-sufficiency. She felt stagnant—stuck in the same routine and dependent on her housing provider.

“More than anything, I wanted freedom,” Justine said. “I wanted to live on my own terms and control my future. And being dependent on others doesn’t allow that.”

One day, a friend of Justine’s suggested they move to Solutions for Change together. They were both ready to learn and grow beyond their current situations, and they wanted to support each other through Solutions Academy.

While Justine was more than eager to learn the career and personal development skills that Solutions Academy offers, the first few months were a difficult adjustment and a bit of a culture shock. She was ready to learn, but she wasn’t ready to let down her guard.

“I had never known constructive criticism that came from a place of love,” Justine said. “I didn’t know the Solutions Empowerment Coaches could just love me for who I am and genuinely care about my growth. So at first, I was defensive.”

The honesty and kindness of the Solutions Empowerment Coaches slowly but surely helped Justine learn to trust others and herself again. However, some of her most important breakthroughs came from other Solutions residents.

In Solutions Academy’s Employment-Related Training (ERT), Justine was sometimes given a leadership role among her peers. Being trusted with a leadership position and receiving feedback from her colleagues was a life-changing experience for Justine.

“I came from a juvenile hall mentality of mistrust and defensiveness,” Justine said. “But Solutions gave me a 180-degree shift in my perspective. They showed me I could be a productive, empathetic leader and a caring teammate.”

By growing into a trusting team player and embracing her need for a community, Justine found her independence. She graduated from Solutions Academy and was offered a job as a Resident Advisor for Solutions, and then later became an Empowerment Coach.

“I said ‘heck yeah’ right away,” Justine said. “Best decision I’ve ever made.”

Now Justine is a full-time empowerment coach who guides residents through their time in Solutions Academy.

Her advice to new Solutions residents? Stay open to change.

“If you’re looking to change your life, Solutions has the answers,” Justine said. “But if you’re not looking for the answers yet, you just won’t find them. If you want to address the reasons why you struggle with homelessness, we can help. I was ready to change, and Solutions literally saved my son and I from homelessness.”

Justine went on to say that Solutions works for those who are actively invested in escaping The Churn and are looking for a supportive, encouraging community.

“Every day I go to work and I can’t believe this is my life,” Justine said. “The Solutions team has so much joy and passion, and all we want is to help others the way we were helped. I couldn’t be more thankful that I found this community.”

Justine now radiates positivity and takes on each day with a sense of purpose and genuine desire to create change.

“Guys, I got a new car,” Justine beamed. “And I pay the bills without even considering pushing them off. This is such a huge deal to me. It feels like freedom.”

Help create more Overcomers, like Justine, by making a gift today.