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Homeless Within a Home

Written by Marcella Hornyak


Posted on January 29 2021

Edited by: Julia Giordano

Being true within your journey requires you to reconnect with your past. The lessons we learn from overcoming dark times can be difficult to mentally unpack, but so essential in our personal growth. Reflecting on trauma with the intention of moving forward is something I invite you to do, and something that I have worked on for many years. I would not be who I am today without the obstacles I’ve faced throughout my life. They have hurt deeply but have also pushed me to overcome, which is why I’d like to share my story with you.

I did not come from a loving mother. As a child, I would dream of what it would be like to have a home, filled with love. Where I lived was filled with anger and the lingering fear of being cut down at any moment. I felt like a stranger, in a house on a street, that was by no means a home. I felt alone and empty always asking God, ‘why am I here, what did I do to deserve this?’ I would look at my friend’s life and so desperately want what she had. A home and a mother both filled with love. 

I had to walk on eggshells around my mom, there was no way of knowing what she’d be like each day. She was big on playing mind games, manipulating myself and the system, to the extent of sending me to jail at the age of thirteen. On that particular night, she accused me of hitting her (which I did not then, or ever do), and had me arrested. While I was in a holding room, I could hear an officer on the phone with my mother - asking her if she had any marks on her and telling her that she needed to come to the station and show him, but she didn’t.

After my mother refused to come get me, I was taken to a place called Safe Heaven. I was there for weeks. Thirty-two years later through therapy, I found out that I was in a homeless shelter for children. Finding this out crushed me. A flood of tears rolled down my face. How could a person, a mother, lie and leave their child there? I had nowhere to go.

During my junior year of high school, my girlfriend had an idea. She suggested that I come live with her and her family. I was ecstatic, finally a way out. One night while my mom was at work, my friend and I packed my things and I left. I was gone for over two months and what a relief that was.

My friend's mother, Dorothy became more of a mother to me than I had ever known. Living with her was the first time I ever had someone fight for me and show me that they truly cared. I had someone who believed in me and who wanted to stand up for me. She taught me to stick up for myself and never let someone put me down or treat me as if I am less than a person. Dorothy showed me love and I had never felt that before. From her, I learned that love was not just a word but that it actually meant something. She gave me hope in my darkest days. She gave me courage. She told me that she would always be there for me and she was, and still is to do this day.

I learned what it was like to be a family. How being a family meant that you did things together and were there for each other unconditionally. I was welcome to sit at their kitchen table and just talk and have someone truly listen. It was a completely different life than I had ever seen, I actually looked forward to going home from school each day.

Eventually the day came where I had to meet with my mother and a probation officer, because I had been targeted as a runaway - to which Dorothy insistently defended when the police showed up at her door for me one night. As I’m sure you can imagine, I was not looking forward to this meeting. At the station, I just sat there and stared at the clock on the wall, numb while my mom told this woman nothing but lies. When the questions were directed towards me, the probation officer was stern and I was sure that she was going to send me somewhere.

By this point, I had taken all that I could so when it was my turn to speak, my mouth opened and I told this woman everything. Of course my mom was trying to interrupt, but I just continued to talk and by the time I was done, all the probation officer asked me was “where do you want to live?” My answer: not with my mother.

In the end my mom led me to believe that things would be different if I came home and I made the biggest mistake by believing her, but as soon as I graduated, I was out of that door and building myself into the person I was inspired to be, thanks to my two-month escape that introduced me to unconditional love and support.

By seventeen I was on my own, living in my own apartment trying to make my life happen. Talk about growing up quickly and not having a clue. I learned so much being on my own and I am still learning today. I was fortunate enough to lean on such an amazing woman during this transition. Dorothy has always been truly there for me. When I started a new job in an office, I didn’t have nice clothes to wear to work so she went through her closet and gave me beautiful clothes to keep for myself. I will never forget her kindness, without it, I wouldn’t be where I am on my journey today.

The lessons I learned while living in a real home helped me to shape my own family. If it wasn’t for Dorothy, I would never have had the example of the joy that’s within a loving home. Having dinner together was my favorite thing to do and it is now a tradition that I’ve brought to my own home, where we have dinner together every night.

We do not need to be defined by the people or experiences in our life that have hurt us. Instead, we should define ourselves by the people and experiences that have brought us joy and light. This is not always easy to do, but when someone enters your life and shows you that they will be there for you, believe them and accept their love.

I would like to make a special thank you to this amazing woman. Dorothy, I cannot thank you enough or ever repay you for everything you’ve done for me - I can only tell you how much I love you and how thankful I will always be for you. You gave me a family and will always be my first mom. I love you so much and thank you for loving me.



  • Glad to see you are doing well and taking your power back.
    Peace Profound,

    Posted by Alex Wick-Gregg | May 21, 2021
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