Megan’s story: From ‘a tornado inside’ to a warrior

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lycoming County’s homeless population often is overlooked and full of people from a myriad of backgrounds. Here On the PULSE runs a week-long series on the local issue including six different profiles on individuals struggling with homelessness. 

A toxic marriage, a rough breakup and thoughts of suicide contributed to Megan’s abrupt homelessness. She and her husband had been living with his mother, but when the young couple separated, “I got kicked out,” Pentz said.

“I felt like I hit rock bottom. I was on drugs and I was unstable, mentally.” Even before their breakup, she and her husband argued a lot and Pentz lived an unstimulating life that revolved around drug use.

“I had a different mind set back then. I’ve done pretty much every drug in the book at one point in my life,” she said. “His mom would smoke weed and I would smoke weed almost every day and not really care. I wasn’t looking for a job or looking to better myself.”

After the separation, Pentz spent almost two weeks in a hospital psych ward, receiving treatment for the suicidal thoughts that plagued her. Then she found temporary shelter at Saving Grace, an American Rescue Workers facility in Williamsport that provides 30 days of emergency housing for anyone who needs it.

“I thought I was going to be homeless, like living under a bridge or something,” Pentz said. 

At the time of this interview, she’s been staying at the YWCA’s Liberty House.

“I’m glad I found this place. I wouldn’t be where I am now,” she said. “When I came here, it helped me find my balance.”

Liberty House gave Pentz a secure spot to regain her footing while her nearly 2-year-old daughter lives with her mother.

“This feels like it could be a home. I’m comfortable here. It’s safe and I like it,” she says of Liberty House, where clients can stay for up to two years.

“I’m not planning on staying here two years,” Pentz firmly states. “I got a job … I just moved to full time … it’s great; I can save up to get a place.

“I’m working towards getting my daughter, who I could have in the next six months. All I need is a place for me and her, and that’s great. It feels good to be clean and on the right track for once.”

Pentz attributes part of her situation to growing up in a family that relied on SSI, also known as Supplemental Security Income, a federal welfare program that provides cash assistance to people who are blind, disabled or age 65 or older.

She regrets being dependent and failing to handle problems on her own, which “would have been preparing me for real life. I was very sheltered. We pretty much had everything done for us. It was terrible. I never really had to do anything for myself.

“When I first came here, I was like a scared, lost little girl,” Pentz said, “and, now, I’m just like, I got this. I can handle this. I feel more independent … I like it. I like not relying on other people.”

That’s not to say she doesn’t have a support system, though. She sees three therapists, connects daily with caseworkers, communicates with her co-workers, receives  medication to support her mental health and completes chores at Liberty House.

“It did change my life,” she says of the housing program. Prior to it, she was “closed-off, depressed (and) so negative. It was terrible … I was like a tornado inside.”

She wears a reminder of her journey literally on her sleeve — a tattoo that reads “Warrior.”

“Now I have a more positive life. I’m at peace with myself and everything going on. There’s only one thing I want and that’s my baby girl.”

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