Renee Baker, 1992

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Renee Baker, 1992
Renee Baker, 1992

"All the husbands I had
except for the one I
have now was always
abusive and were
addicts. The more they
used, the more I used."

My birth date is October 13, 1950. I was born in Newark, New Jersey.

Yes, I finished high school. I went one year to college at North Carolina A&T. And I came back pregnant—part of partying. I was glad to get away from home. That was an outlet for me—that was freedom—more than going to learn something. It was more of just getting away.

I started using after I had my daughter. I was about nineteen, not quite twenty. During those years my daughter stayed with either my parents or my first husband’s parents. I guess out of all that time, she might have stayed with me maybe two good years. She might would come on the weekend, but then it was like I wasn’t there mostly on the weekends anyway, so a lot of times she was there by herself or with some friends of mine. But the majority of the time, she lived with my parents or with her other grandparents.

I’ve been married three times. I’m on my third husband; I just got married in November. I met this guy in treatment, in the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous. My first husband was also an addict and he was very abusive, but at the time I wasn’t using. But after he and I broke up, that’s when I picked up and started to drink real heavy, and then I started to use other drugs after that. And then I got married again, and all the husbands I had except the one I have now was always abusive and were addicts and they used. And the more they used, the more I used.

I came to the shelter twice. I was here two months, and then two more months. And that was in 1989 and ‘90.
After I left the shelter the last time, I still didn’t get myself together. I stayed here and there and everywhere, not mainly on the streets, but just with anybody that would let me stay with them. I did that for about a year. And I got cleaned up—I went into treatment in 1991. The only reason I decided to do that was because the last place that I stayed, I got abused real bad and I didn’t have anywhere else to go, so treatment was my only resort to get off the streets at that time. So that’s where I went, and I stayed there for twenty-eight days.
When I left treatment, my parents decided they would give me one more chance. So I lived in their basement for about five months. And then it was just, I guess, by grace, because then I found a job. And the only reason I got the job was because I was an addict. And that’s what they were looking for: somebody with an addiction to do the job. That’s the job that I have now. I work at the health department. I pass out condoms and talk to people about HIV and AIDS. And that’s a blessing, because, I mean, from where I came from, I would never have thought I would have ended up like this.

"From where I came
from, I would never
have thought I would
have ended up
like this."

Renee Baker,

Former Resident,
Durham Community Shelter for H.O.P.E.


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