Ten different foster homes before age 10. A mother she barely knew. A father who was an IV drug addict. She was in kinship care for a year, then back with her father, whom she loved and idolized.
Rachel Johnson was having sex and doing pot by age 11 and was an IV drug user by age 14. At 15, she moved out of her house, even though her dad had been clean and sober for a couple of years. Rachel moved in with her 30-year-old boyfriend because she always wanted a home and family. She had an ideal of what that would be like.
Instead, Rachel reconnected with her mom, got drugs from her, and helped her shoot up. She herself was shooting up – living at her boyfriend’s dad’s home and trying to play house. At 16, they broke up, and she started running around with a 42-year-old and a 30-year-old. She got involved in a murder. Although she wasn’t present at the murder, she was on the run. Rachel hid in the trunks of cars and living on the porch of her grandmother’s house with her mom. Passed out, she eventually was caught by the police.
Rachel went to rehab at age 17 as part of a court-ordered boot camp. As long as someone was there to watch her, Rachel was fine. She was able to stay off drugs and completed the high school credits she needed to graduate.
But two weeks after graduation, she moved in with a man, and her drug use became even worse. She was stealing and having sex to feed her addiction.
Rachel ended up with a Class D felony for receiving stolen property after she pawned a gun for her boyfriend.
From jail to jail, house to house – Rachel spent her time sleeping with anyone for pills and meth.
But it was a social worker and law enforcement officer who wouldn’t give up on her. Arrest after arrest, they tried to help. The social worker eventually took a job with Operation UNITE and connected her with Hope City for treatment. The program also would help her get a job and a home. She had never had a job and thought she would really like it.
Rachel arrived shell-shocked.
“I couldn’t believe everyone was so happy. She didn’t have anything when she arrived – even her sandals were broken. But people told her that they loved her. How could they love me? I don’t love myself.”
Once she gave her life to the Lord, everything has been different. Rachel graduated from the program, starting an internship there and was offered a job.
She just became certified as an adult peer support specialist and is going to college to become a social worker – hoping to change at least one life like she was changed. Rachel also serves on the Youth Advisory Council Board, where she serves as a mentor to at-risk youth.
“There is a way out. There is hope. I was so broken and weighed down by this work. Now I’m so free.”