UnBoxing Project: Surviving and Thriving on the Outside

Eleanor Skelton blogs at eleanorskelton.com, is the news editor of the UCCS student newspaper, and is majoring in English and Chemistry. The following was originally published on Eleanor’s blog on April 7, 2015, and is reprinted with permission.

< Part Thirteen

I came from an upper middle class, well-educated family. I was privileged.

I moved out as a college student with a couple of jobs on campus after my parents emptied my savings account. Most of the people the Underground Railroad helped were in similar circumstances.

Our counselor friend Sandra, who was in graduate school when I moved out, talked to me a week after I left. I didn’t have a car and was bicycling everywhere. She taught me how to take care of myself when I was broke.

These resources helped all of us stay independent on a low-income budget.

  • Food pantries and food stamps
    When my paycheck barely covered rent and gas or three other girls were living out of our tiny apartment, we couldn’t afford food. Mercy’s Gate, American Charities, and other Care and Share pantries felt like small miracles. There’s even Peak Pet Pantry for cats and dogs. And El Paso county provides SNAP benefits (food stamps).
  • Cellphone plans like Straight Talk, Wal-Mart Family Mobile, and Tracfone
    Our monthly bills were between $30-40, or we used pay as you go.
  • Dollar stores
    One day my friend Josh issued me a challenge: go to a dollar store and see what they sold. It was so eyeopening that now I take other refugees there, showing them what a dollar can get in a pinch.
  • Thrift stores
    Here in Colorado Springs, we have the Arc and Goodwill, and places like Promises Resale Boutique that benefit disadvantaged teens resell the leftovers from bigger thrift stores even cheaper.
  • Temporary agencies
    Our little band of cult refugees all needed jobs, but I didn’t know what temporary agencies did until one winter when I was down to only one of the three jobs from the summer. Then I got a call from Front Range Staffing.
    They’d found my resume on Monster and wanted to hire me for a receptionist position at a pharmaceutical company, something related to my chemistry degree. They also gave me odd jobs like hotel housekeeping for extra money, enabling me to support myself.
  • Housing / utilities assistance
    Most cities have section 8 housing. El Paso County also has LEAP, which provides heating assistance in the winter.
  • Internet
    Several major companies like Comcast and CenturyLink also offer low-income internet service. This website even gives a comparison chart.
  • Mental health
    We wrestled with anxiety, self-harm, PTSD, and survivor’s guilt. But we found counselors on campus and in the community who worked on a sliding fee scale, who wanted to help us heal most of all. Due North Counseling was one of the local places that helped us.

We also found many organizations in Colorado Springs had resources also.

    The 24/7 crisis line (719-633-3819) offers advice to abuse survivors, although they mainly deal with intimate partner violence.
  • DHS / CPS / Adult Protective Services
    In El Paso County, call (719) 444-5700 or 1-844-CO4KIDS or email childabusereport@elpasoco.com to report child abuse.
  • Inside / Out Youth Services
    Provides housing for homeless LGBT youth under 25 and other resources.
  • The Independence Center
    Provides services to empower people with disabilities.

On the outside, we formed our own little family, a chosen family rather than by blood.

Dale Fincher, who talks about recovery from spiritual abuse at Soulation, writes in The Exodus From Family:

“When our biological family puts a brake on friendship, we must look for friendship elsewhere. This year, I am no longer defaulting to blood and legal relatives as my ‘ohana. They will not lock me into a family orphanage until I conform to their demands. No. My family has become my Chosen Family, for we cannot live as orphans (John 14:18).”

A theme that resurfaces in the dialogue about spiritual abuse is Christian fundamentalism’s idolization of family values over the well-being of the individuals within the family. The family unit’s survival becomes the trump card, enabling denial of abuse.

We learned we could all find freedom together.

No, we couldn’t save each other or support each other–we all had to ultimately find our own way because all of us are broken and hurting.

But we knew we weren’t alone.

Sometimes a hug, a shoulder to cry on enabled us to just keep walking, to not give up.

Even if we were outcast, we believed our experiences were valid, we grasped for something better.

And we wanted to share this new life, this freedom with others.

R. L. Stollar, one of the founders of Homeschoolers Anonymous, wrote:

“I learned that Jesus of Nazareth was not content with 99 sheep when 99 sheep means that one gets left behind to suffer in silence and solitude. [….] But Jesus dealt with human beings, not statistics. Human beings are what I want to deal with, too. […] Us “bitter apostates” will be out in the wilderness, searching for the one you abandoned.”

And that is what we did, too.

End of series.

4 thoughts on “UnBoxing Project: Surviving and Thriving on the Outside

  1. Sarah J April 18, 2015 / 5:42 pm

    The dollar store I go to always has a great selection of socks. Lots of fun socks too, even.


    • Eleanor Skelton May 2, 2015 / 3:16 pm

      Yup, freedom doesn’t have to be expensive. ^^


  2. Lucy Moore November 4, 2015 / 9:30 pm

    Anyone in this situation might benefit from the resources on this link as well:

    This is a recipe site developed by a woman who had to live on an extreme budget. This resource might be useful (for men AND women, mind you) who have little money coming in after running away from a homeschool environment. This way, if you get sick of certain food-stamp options, these recipes can be a way to change up the routine a little.


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