Meet Patricia: A Story of Survival

Patricia Nieves’ mom was a survivor, just like she is.

Despite being married to two abusive men, she created a relatively stable home life for Patricia and her brother Al. Patricia recalls an early memory of her father holding her mother down, injecting into her arm what she now thinks must have been heroin. “It never dawned on me until I was in recovery that my mother must have become addicted as a result of what my father was doing to her, yet she fought it, overcame it, and took care of us.”

Fast forward decades: Patricia now had four children.

There were struggles, but life was generally okay until 2007, when her uncle raped her one night in front of her son Jordan, then five. Her daughter Sarah, then about 12, confided that he had been molesting her as well. He served several years in prison. Soon after, in 2009, her mother passed away from undiagnosed Hepatitis C and everything unraveled. Before long, Patricia was addicted to heroin – it helped make the pain go away.

With nowhere else to go, the family slept on a bench outside of a Lynn bus station and Patricia pleaded with the Department of Children and Families to take temporary custody of her children so she could get help. Finally, in an act of desperation, she walked into a homeless shelter carrying drug paraphernalia, knowing she would be arrested. She was, and DCF took custody of her children—who were now all teenagers.

Patricia had many more dark days…

There was a period when she slept on the street and in a Lynn cemetery, next to her mother’s headstone; estrangement from her children; shame, depression. One day she found herself at Andrew Station in South Boston, contemplating whether to end her life by jumping in front of a train. She had no cell service, but the station’s WiFi spontaneously connected, showing a Facebook message from her son Jordan. He didn’t care if she had a drug problem – he said that he loved her and didn’t want to grow up without a mother. That changed everything.

Patricia entered another detox program and “never looked back,” as she puts it. 

Her sobriety day was March 3, 2015.

Patricia found out about St. Francis House’s Sullivan Family Moving Ahead Program (MAP) — 14 weeks of job- and life-skills training—through the sober house where she was living.

“Patricia came into the program with a sense of purpose, focus, and motivation,” says Abigail Casabona, her MAP instructor. “She was a good influence on her peers, a calm and pleasant presence, but she never let anything distract her from why she was there. She took the tools we gave her and worked really hard.”

MAP provided Patricia with the support that enabled her to thrive:

“They saw in me things I didn’t see in myself, and told me they would fight for me, even when I didn’t want to fight for myself,” says Patricia.

“But they didn’t baby us. They held us accountable.”

As of March 2016, Patricia works at Burger King at Logan Airport, where she has received several promotions and is now general manager of two of the chain’s airport restaurants. Gainfully employed, Patricia regained custody of her children and today, her youngest, Noah, lives in Revere with her and is a high school senior. Jordan recently joined the Marines, Matthew and his wife and their two children live upstairs from her and daughter Sara lives with her boyfriend and their daughter in Beverly.

 “St. Francis House saved my life,” says Patricia. 


Note: Patricia, pictured above with her family, was featured at our All The Way Home gala in October 2019  and in our December 2019 newsletter The Spirit of St. Francis. To hear Patricia’s story in her own words, watch her All The Way Home video below.