Leann Lewis – L.A., on account of there being five other Leanns in her west Texas hometown – was living a comfortable life in Dallas when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She had a rent-controlled apartment, money in the bank, and a professional history that included a stint as a museum director. But L.A. was also still recovering from the loss of her mother – she’d stopped working to become her mother’s caregiver – and significant past traumas. The pandemic signaled the beginning of a downward spiral.
L.A. panicked and pulled money she’d inherited from her mother out of the stock market. She gave some money away to friends and made other “bad financial decisions.” Then L.A.’s landlord decided to tear down the apartment complex where she lived.
Overwhelmed, L.A. checked herself into an inpatient mental health treatment facility. She was discharged into homelessness.
A friend in Fort Worth opened her home to L.A. for a couple weeks. L.A. then used her modest monthly pension and contributions from friends to pay for motel rooms. After a couple months, L.A. secured a spot at a sober housing community in Austin, but she prayed for a more permanent place to live. Enter longtime 4Saints Episcopal Food Pantry volunteer Rhonda Grundy.
L.A. and Rhonda had become acquainted years earlier through First Congregational United Church of Christ. L.A. was in the D/FW Metroplex collecting her pension check and other mail when Rhonda, who’d lived alone since her husband’s death, suggested L.A. move in with her.
L.A. receives groceries from 4Saints but also volunteers regularly alongside her friend-turned-roommate. Her own experiences inform her outlook on poverty. “Many homeless people are just down on their luck,” L.A. said. “Yes, there are people who are mentally ill, but some are just down on their luck.”
Though she’s suffered hardship in her life, L.A. knows she’s blessed by God’s grace. Volunteering at 4Saints gives L.A. the opportunity to share that grace with others. And by giving grace, L.A. receives it yet again.