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December 25, 2017 10:08 PM

'Tis The Season For Hope

Sioux Falls

The Christmas holiday can mean a lot of different things for different people, but hope is often a common theme- especially for people who have been in a dark place.

Jennifer Owen and Julie Becker haven't always gotten along like this.

"I was the type where I wouldn't let someone tell me what to do, I wouldn't let no one boss me around, like me and Julie bumped heads a lot," Jennifer Owen said.

Owen has now been sober since May 2016, but she had been addicted to meth for years and years. Now, her life is different.

"When I was in my addiction, there was no pleasure to it,” Owen said. “No amazing. Now that I got my kids back, like now, they're my amazing story."

She went to the women's prison in Pierre for ingesting meth, and eventually moved on to the work release program at the St. Francis House in Sioux Falls. It wasn't her first time here.

"Jennifer had some bumps, as I call 'em speed bumps in the beginning, where things didn't work out the first couple times she was here, but then she came back, and she needed to do it differently," Becker, executive director of the St. Francis House, said.

"Before I wasn't ready to change, I know that now, so I was fighting them every time they tried to guide me," Owen said.

It was here that Owen, in her words, "dug deep."

"I had to dig deep and find myself, because how could I take care of my kids if I didn't love myself, how could I love them, if I didn't truly love myself,” Owen said. “I had no love to give, because I didn't love myself."

Now, in Becker's eyes, Owen is a shining light.

"I think it's the true definition of what our mission is, is moving people from homelessness to hope," Becker said.

"That was a blessing to get sent back to St. Francis, 'cause if I would have, if I didn't, I don't, I honestly don't know where I'd be right now, I probably wouldn't have what I have today," Owen said.

"After she was able to secure employment, her goal was to reunite her family, so, we began that step, by having her move into one of our family units, and slowly have her kids go back into her care and become a family again," Becker said.

Christmas 2017 will be Owen's first with family in some time.

"I don't even think my kids had Christmases, and if they did, I don't remember what I bought ‘em. For years," Owen said.

"And then after being in the family unit for a period of time, then she had the ultimate goal that she reached, and that was getting into her own home," Becker said.

Which she has now, in northwest Sioux Falls.

"When I was sober before, my kids would bring all their friends home, so I had constantly had housefuls, or my nieces and nephews would bring their kids," Owen said.

That environment is coming back.

"Slowly I can see my house doing that again, it's attracting teenagers, their friends, and I like it because I know they're safe," Owen said.

Owen is unique among the St. Francis House's guests.

"The biggest step for Jennifer compared to anyone that we have served, is she's now an advocate,” Becker said. “She is going out, and she's telling people her story, and she just got back from Rapid City at a conference where she shared her story about her addiction with meth."

Owen's relationship with the St. Francis House isn't over- not by a long shot.

"They're still guiding me now that I'm out, they're there for me," Owen said.

She's there for them, too.

"I want to volunteer, and hopefully if they see, ‘Oh my gosh, Jennifer made it, she made it out of St. Francis, she made it out of work release, she's still making it,’ hopefully if they see all that, that will inspire them," Owen said.

She says that the St. Francis House means "hope" to her.

"It's hope to me because like, if you go in there with the right mindset, and they guide you, they give you hope… even though I've been sober I still hope I can remain sober," Owen said.

"When someone takes your hope away, then you're in your darkest days,” Becker said. “And that's what meth does, but Jennifer was able to see past the darkness and to see the sun."

Owen says she now loves herself.

"She was able to grab on to the hope that was offered to her, that people did believe in her, that they loved her, and that we were here to help recreate a new sense of hope, and that's what she has now," Becker said.

"I deserve to have a happy life, so I can help other people,” Owen said. “I went through all them trials to build me character, build me strength, and to have a story to tell, to help other peoples."

And the hope spreads.

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