FAIRFIELD — Nearly a decade ago, Barbara Wood was a cautionary tale at Mission Solano. Now – as the multimillion-dollar Fairfield homeless program celebrates its 15th anniversary – she is its poster child.
Wood is a recovering methamphetamine addict who began staying at Mission Solano’s nomadic shelters in 1999, when the organization was just a few months old.
For the next several years, she and her three daughters would spend the night at one of the churches that works with Mission Solano. She said she considered herself a “princess of Mission Solano” – a frequent visitor to the Community Outreach Center on Travis Boulevard – until she was booted out of the program in 2006 after lying about where she spent a weekend and failing a drug test.
“She just couldn’t get it,” said Raymond Courtemanche, the senior program officer for Mission Solano. “She made bad decisions and was battling addictions. We told her, ‘You can’t live that lifestyle here. When you’re ready, come back.’ ”
Wood hit bottom for several months – living behind a transformer near the Fairfield Civic Center Library while her daughters found other options.
“That year was horrendous for me,” Wood said.
The next January, she learned her 16-year-old daughter was pregnant and made a decision: Her grandchild wouldn’t live through what her children endured. After clearing several hurdles, she met with Courtemanche and Kevin Miller, a former executive at the mission.
“I said if you’ll give me a chance, I’ll surrender to Jesus Christ,” Wood said.
That was June 15, 2007. She got back into Mission Solano’s pipeline and her granddaughter was born four months later – as Wood went through recovery, reunited with her husband and continued in the Mission Solano program.
Now? After two years as a full-time volunteer at Mission Solano, she became a shelter attendant, then case manager, now a supervisor at the four-year-old Bridge to Life Center. She’s a walking testimony to an institution that began as a bus-as-shelter program 15 years ago.
“It’s exciting to see her flip side,” Courtemanche said. “She’s with her husband, in their own place, she’s a grandma and she’s leading the women here.”
Wood considers herself blessed.
“It’s awesome,” Wood said. “Here I am. I walked the streets, I used drugs, I panhandled with my kids. That’s where I was . . . and Mission Solano saved my life. They gave my daughters a new outlook and restored my marriage.”
Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.