Photo: University of Houston/ Parameters

It takes a village: How Mejean overcame homelessness and achieved her dreams of joining NASA

Reaching for the stars 

Mejean had always loved everything about space, NASA, and technology, but her dream to go to college kept getting postponed.

First, she began a career in law enforcement to help her family with finances, and then she became a mother of two. She always held on to her dream of becoming an engineer and joining NASA, though. She decided to pursue her dream shortly after becoming a mom.

Her family had always been “just okay” living paycheck to paycheck, but after Mejean quit her job to become a full-time student, things became harder for her family. Her husband, Ray, became the sole breadwinner.

Then tragedy struck.

Overcoming obstacles

Mejean was hit by a car. Ray quit his job immediately to take care of his wife and tend to her every need. At the time, Mejean was a University of Houston student pursuing a computer engineering degree. The bills began to pile up, and their finances spiraled out of control.

They lost everything.

“We didn’t have a car, and we had to depend on the bus to get everywhere,” said Mejean. “At one point, I had to make the decision, am I going to make it to class, or am I going to have enough money to eat?”

Eventually, the family could not pay bills or rent, and the electricity was cut off. They had to move out of the apartment they’d called home for eight years. That is when Mejean did a Google search to find a shelter, and she found The Salvation Army Family Residence. Mejean and her family moved into Family Residence, and things began to come together for the family.

“Everything we needed was there, and I don’t know if I would have had that anywhere else,” explained Mejean. “They talked to us about nutrition, meal planning, finances, and budgeting. I was even seeing a doctor regularly for the first time in ten years.”

Finding a safe place

The Salvation Army provided Mejean with a safe space to breathe, self-evaluate, and process everything that was happening. When Mejean was ready, The Salvation Army connected her with the United Way of Greater Houston who assisted the family with career placement, apartment down payment assistance, and furnishing their first apartment.

“What I remember most about Family Residence is how great they were with my kids. The kids loved their time there. They remember playing guitar with First Baptist Church, playing games, and going on field trips to Cirque du Soleil.”

Achieving the dream

Mejean was able to go back to school and went on to graduate in summer 2018, with a job waiting for her at NASA. Currently, Mejean is a Linux developer and configuration management analyst for NASA; she is part of a team located at the Johnson Space Center that programs and supports all of the computer systems on the Space Station.

“People think you are brave when you go things like this, but when you’re actually going through this, you don’t feel brave. When I moved into Family Residence, I was falling into pieces. But, I left Family Residence with resources and an entire village to help my family and I get to where we are now.”

To support the empowerment of families facing homelessness, please consider joining our Friends of the Army (FOTA.) When you’re a friend of the army, you’re a blessing to someone in need. Being a part of Friends of the Army means consistent support that helps neighbors who are struggling. Click here to learn more.