lex end homelessness thomas and martha
Thomas and Martha’s Story: Home Is Where the Heart Is

Thomas is originally from Springfield, Ohio, but moved to Harrodsburg, Kentucky when an acquaintance of his told him he’d have a job and a house lined up for him on his arrival. When he arrived, however, he found out that this job did not exist and neither did the housing he was promised. Thomas was unhoused and ate a weekly meal offered by a local church when he met Martha. Thomas is a bit of a ladies’ man, and he always made sure to make his rounds and have a conversation with the women who were also at the dinner. Enter Martha. She was born and raised in Harrodsburg, and at this time was also unhoused. She’d often stay on her brother’s property, but this shelter didn’t have running water or electricity, and he would regularly make her leave. When the two met in 2012, it was essentially love at first sight for Martha— or first sound. “I fell in love with his voice. I heard him in the crowd, and then, finally, he came and sat at our table and said, ‘Hi, ladies,’ and we talked. At the time, he was seeing another woman, and her daughter said to me, ‘That’s my mama's boyfriend,’ and I said, ‘That’s my boyfriend now.”. 

Nothing really happened, until Martha’s brother kicked her out again, and this time it seemed permanent. Martha felt like the only human interactions she had were transactional, the only people who came to see her wanted drugs, and after this devastating blow of losing her meager shelter, she decided she was going to end her life. She carefully laid out her prescription medications and planned to take all of them. But before she did, she decided to take one last walk. And on that walk, she ran into Thomas. “I was on my way to the library,” he says, “and she told me what was going on, and I talked to her. Eventually, we went back to her home, put all the pills back in their bottles, and we’ve been together ever since.” Her response: “I didn’t believe in love until I met Thomas.” 

When asked about what led to them both being unhoused, they simultaneously answered: “drugs.” They’ve both gone through triumphs and challenges on their individual roads to recovery. Thomas went to rehab in Minnesota and was clean for over 100 days, but once he was back in Kentucky, he began using again. Martha and Thomas had enough saved up to live in a hotel for a while, but at some point, Thomas recounts, “Getting high was more important than paying rent, so that’s how we became homeless.” When in recovery from substance abuse, Thomas would find housing in Lexington, largely through the service provider Sober Living. But whenever one or both of them would relapse, they would be put out. 

In September 2021, they were both unhoused and Martha contracted coronavirus. At first, she didn’t know she had COVID. She was just extremely ill, so sick that she couldn’t walk anymore, so she laid under a tree for two days without moving. All she had was a blanket, which got wet from the rain. She was completely exposed and alone, and after 48 hours, she was hospitalized. Martha is an asthmatic and borderline diabetic, making her even more vulnerable and high-risk as a COVID-positive patient. She was hospitalized for a week and so out of it that she lost track of what day it was. 

During Martha’s harrowing experience with the virus, she pleaded with God and promised that if God could get her through her hospitalization, she’d stay away from drugs. Once she was discharged, both her and Thomas experienced a similar revelation of recovery. Currently, Martha is at the Salvation Army shelter and Thomas is in a house with roommates via Sober Living. But, this brings them to their biggest challenge so far: separation. They’re both glad to be sober and sheltered, but they’re used to spending every waking moment together, not stuck on opposite sides of town without transportation. “At the shelter, I sleep, but I don’t sleep like I used to, because he’s not there. I’m used to him holding me at night. And I didn’t care how sick I was feeling, I had to see him everyday,” Martha reveals. She mentioned that they both recently got bus passes so they don’t have to walk back and forth. Even still, they still only see each other a few times a week, which is heartbreaking for them both. Thomas puts things into perspective; “We might be separated, but we’re not on the streets, thank God.” 

Thomas and Martha hope that if things continue on their current trajectory, that in the next five to six months they’ll be able to get an apartment together and finally be reunited. But, their dreams don’t stop there. Martha has an adult son who is similarly experiencing homelessness. She hopes that once she and Thomas have found stable housing, she can finally bring her son home and take care of him before the colder months hit Lexington. Martha sees home not just as a place with shelter but a place with loved ones. Lex End Homelessness is passionate about helping folks like Martha and Thomas find secure housing so they can finally be together at home. You can get involved with Lex End Homelessness by joining the Continuum of Care, donating to the Lex End Homelessness campaign, or by following us on social media @lexendhomelessness.