PORTLAND, Ore. -- A woman who grew up in Vancouver and lived outside in Portland the last years is safe and warm, living in a women's shelter.
Misty Smith is proud so show off her room to visitors, it's the first place she's felt truly safe -- and at peace -- in a long time.
She said the turmoil began as a young teen.
“I lived at my mom's house, then go to my dad's house. And in and out of foster homes again and then, I was 16-and-a-half and I ran away and I went up to Olympia,” she said.
From there she met a man at 17, and for the next six years lived in California and Mexico while giving birth to two daughters. Their names are tattooed on her forearms.
Then at 23, she stepped through a doorway that consumed her life. Drugs became a constant companion.
“My meth life started at age of 23 and just kept on. I mean I got introduced to my best friend. It was hard to leave it,” Smith said.
She lost everything. She couch surfed for years then in early 2016 moved out to Moore Island in the Columbia slough, near Portland International Raceway. She lived in a tent and believed she'd found her new family.
“I mainly stayed there because I loved them. You know what I mean? I had heart for them. But they really touched my heart. I could have went indoors, but I didn't go indoors because I just felt I had to be there, you know? Because I felt comfort around them, I felt safe with them and I even felt they felt safer with me being around them,” said Smith.
She injected meth on a regular basis.
“It ruins your life,” Smith said.
“You think you're happy, you think you're this person happiest person on earth. You're not really. You're miserable. I was miserable,” she added.
Reality shoved its way past the drugs.
“It was hard struggle and being a woman of 37 years of age, living out of my own in a tent by myself, is scary,” said Smith.
After two long years, she hit rock bottom.
“I just got tired of the drug life. I got tired of using something that wasn't getting me happy or wasn't getting me any better. It was just miserable. I could be in a room full of people, laughing smiling joking around but then they left the room I'm down on my knees crying. Asking for help. Asking for somebody to help me,” she said.
That somebody turned out to be Noah Howe from the Union Gospel Mission. A year ago the mission got a van and Noah started making stops at known gathering areas, connecting with people who are homeless on a personal level, available for anyone who wanted a new life.
In early December, that anyone, was Misty Smith.
“Just one day out of nowhere I told Noah I was sick of it. I was sick. I was done. I need help. He said 'seriously?' I said 'seriously.' I need help. I need help. I need off the streets.”
Noah got her in to the Union Gospel Mission's Life Change Program for women.
“It was like a big 'woof' off my chest. Like a big relief. Like I just gave, like I was born again. I didn't want to use drugs anymore, I didn't want to be around those people anymore,” she said.
Now, at the end of December, Misty is still clean and sober for the first time in a long time.
She has pictures on her bedroom wall of new friends in the same program.
She looks forward to seeing her daughters again and said she's determined to make the mission's Life Change program work in her life.
It's the holiday season and Misty Smith has given herself the best gift ever, a fresh start.
“I got this program, you know? I got this. And it's not just a program. It's me to learn how to be a mother again – how to learn to be Misty again, you know? I'm like that seed that gets planted in the ground... My roots are growing and I feel like I'm just gonna start blooming,” she said with a smile.