When you first meet Cynthia McCreary, a word that comes to mind is DETERMINATION. A talented writer with two beautiful children (Rosalyn, 14, and Kenriek, 4), Cynthia found herself facing homelessness and needed help. COTS recently sat down with Cynthia to hear her story and learn about how her life has changed since coming to COTS.

What initially brought you to COTS?

Cynthia: Instability. Not having a good foundation. Not having a support system, and not having a plan that I could stick to. I had moved back home to Michigan after living in Houston, TX. I was just kind of tired and stressed out and thought to myself, “what am I going to do?”. I had something lined up for housing. It fell through, and I was in a position where I wasn’t stable. I had my daughter with me, and I had exhausted all my finances, and we were living in my car and on couches. The weather was chilly. When COTS told me they had space for us, I was on my way IMMEDIATELY.

What was going through your mind as you had your first encounters at COTS?

Cynthia: I think what for me, and I know some people will say, ‘no, there’s no way you could have been actually kind of glad about going to the shelter’, but I was so happy to have received a spot. It was a relief to find out about all of the resources available to get me out of that current state of homelessness and to stay out of it. I was open minded and ready to do what I needed to do.

What are some of the most beneficial programs you participated in at COTS?

Cynthia: Passport to Self Sufficiency, hands down. I had never had a coach before and didn’t even know what that was. But I was willing to do whatever I could to improve my situation. As soon as you sign up, they start working with you right away to address issues like housing, employment, health and wellness, and financial issues. I’m a recent graduate of the program and it has been truly life changing.

CONGRATULATIONS! Now that you have graduated from these programs, what is your life like now?

Cynthia: My life is really great. It’s definitely different from five years ago. So much so that some days, I think to myself, “Is this really happening?”. I’m a recent college graduate. After that, I was hired on permanently at my job and was promoted. My life is much more structured. I have a foundation and support structure that I did not have before. I have all these great things happening now compared to when I first came to COTS. They are two different lives.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Cynthia: Wow, in five years? I see myself striving and continuing with higher education. I should have my bachelor’s degree in five years. My long-term goal is a master’s degree. Working as a housing coordinator for a nonprofit, my eyes are becoming open to the different opportunities to help people. I see myself moving up in my career. Purchasing a home. Providing the best education opportunities for my kids. I see myself and my family thriving.

What is some advice you have for people who are currently struggling?

Cynthia: There is light at the end of the tunnel. Use all the tools and resources you have available. You must be willing to use them. Be open and acceptable to change. That’s the big thing. When you stick with making those positive changes, your life is going to go in a way that will be successful. Sometimes, even with success, change can be scary. If you’ve never had success before, you might not know what to do with it because you don’t trust it. You have to learn to trust yourself. I’m learning that it’s okay to be moving on up. Have faith in yourself. You can do it.

As someone who has been through the programs offered, why should people consider making a gift to COTS?

Cynthia: Because COTS offers services I’ve never seen before. I’ve lived in several states and COTS was not my first shelter. I’ve never been to a place that addresses all areas of your life that make up a happy and healthy individual. They address your physical and mental health, housing, finances, education, and employment opportunities. For those who put in the work, it’s a life-long relationship, and COTS doesn’t stop as soon as you get on your feet. It’s also generational assistance, because they are helping to break the cycle of instability. They are not only setting me up for success, but they are also setting my children to succeed in life. Donors will help people like me find the right path in life, and that really makes for a better community for all of us. Donors are really making an investment in the success of their communities.