CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Mental health, substance abuse and homelessness are all key issues the Mountain State and the nation are facing, especially coming out of the pandemic.

We caught up with one woman, who saw the need to change her situation and now, she’s hoping her story will inspire others.

“Even if you don’t have any mental illness, you will because it is a struggle and it’s scary and it could be dangerous,” that’s what 55-year-old Kristina Roush said when we spoke with her 7 months ago.

She was addicted to drugs, living on the streets of Charleston, and carrying all of her belongings in a baby stroller.

“I look so thin. Because I was so addicted and homeless and not eating properly. I was literally eating out of dumpsters,” says Roush watching the story we aired in October.

Roush was just one of more than 1,000 people in West Virginia who find themselves homeless.

“I gave up. It was so hard it just seemed like it was so overwhelming of everything you have to do cause I mean. You lose everything. You lose all of your personal belongings but you lose yourself too. You become depressed and you just think that there’s no way out,” says Roush.

But she did find a way out. First, by putting herself through drug rehab, and then working with many faith-based organizations to help get her back on her feet.

“Since Kristina has been here she’s been so serious about her recovery,” says Brittany Wolfe, a program director with REA of Hope Charleston.

Wolfe says Kristina is an inspiration to other women in the program, “She has such a positive attitude, she’s dove right into working, and working her steps and being involved in her twelve step recovery and it’s a breath of fresh air to see something like that happen.”

Kristina says it’s all about making that first right decision. “And seeking out the helps that’s out there for you and really being serious about it. And wanting a new life, and wanting to be happy,” says Roush.

She also now holds a full-time job, which is a requirement for living at RAE of Hope.

“I smile at work and I love seeing people and being able to have that stigma of wanting to reach out to people but they might not accept me because I’m homeless. But now I don’t have to worry about that because I am being a productive member of society.”

Kristina’s road hasn’t been easy, with a long way to go. And when we took her back to where we first spoke with her, she has mixed emotions about her journey.

“It makes me a little sad that you know that I got to that point but more than that it really makes me happy that this is where I was 7 months ago, and how far I’ve came and grown. Because it’s really a matter of growth.”

Growth, and being that ray of hope for others who may be struggling.

“And I hope that my story will give them the hope they need to know that there is something better out there. There is a true happiness because happiness is not in drugs. Its not in being homeless. Its probably the first time in a long time where I could say I’m truly happy.”

Krista Roush