WILKES-BARRE —After being severely beaten on Public Square by a male acquaintance nearly a month ago, Shannon was left for dead.
Placing a hand gently over her still swollen left cheek, the 36-year-old woman pointed to her broken nose and bruised eye as she recalled the horrific event.
“I remember spitting teeth out of my mouth,” she said.
Wishing to only give her first name, Shannon carried a red teddy bear, which matched the color of her long hair, under her arm. She and more than 400 supporters gathered on Public Square on Sunday for the sixth annual Ruth’s Place Homeless Awareness Fundraiser Walk.
The walk, “A Mile in Her Shoes,” benefited the emergency women’s homeless shelter, which is a program of Volunteers of America. The event, which was co-sponsored by the Shoval Center at King’s College and Misericordia University, led participates through a two-mile loop, passing sites that homeless women must visit each day in order to get by.
The sites included the Salvation Army, Community Counseling Services, St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen, Luzerne-Wyoming Counties Mental Health/Mental Retardation and Luzerne-Wyoming Counties Drug & Alcohol Counseling.
“If it wasn’t for Ruth’s Place, I’d be dead,” said Shannon.
After being treated at the hospital, she was taken to the shelter. “I was wearing nothing but a tank top, pajama pants and some kind of shoes,” she said.
With the help of Ruth’s Place, Shannon said, she’ll be moving into her own place soon, and when she does, she plans to volunteer at the shelter twice a week.
“There are days when you just say ‘I’m just so tired of this,’ but you keep doing what you gotta do,” she said. “It’s an emotional roller coaster.”
Ruth’s Place is the only emergency homeless shelter for single women in Luzerne County. Since its inception a decade ago, Ruth’s Place has not only provided shelter 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but it also gives women access to onsite case management, outreach and counseling designed to address homelessness and help the women find permanent housing.
“If it wasn’t for Ruth’s Place, I don’t know where any of us would be,” said a former Ruth’s Place resident, who didn’t want to give name. “I think some of us would be dead under a bridge, or raped or murdered.”
The 38-year-old woman said she’s grateful to Ruth’s Place helping her in her time of need. She now lives independently and has a job.
“I have made more friends and have gotten more support at Ruth’s Place than at any time in my entire life,” she said. “There’s no way I can ever repay them for what they’ve done.”
“These women come to us in need and trust their lives to our care,” Ruth’s Place Director Kristen Topolski told the crowd during a pre-walk rally. Topolski was also recently named Wilkes-Barre’s “Woman of the Year” by the Wyoming Valley Women’s Club.
“It’s remarkable to watch their tears turn into triumphs, despair into determination and self-doubt into self-worth,” she said. “Today we can continue to say loudly and clearly that homelessness does not equal hopelessness.”