She rented a house, but health problems prevented her from working, and the further behind she got on bills, the more impossible climbing out of the hole seemed.
For months, people told her to go to PATH. Maybe the agency could help. But Ms. Adams, 63, was used to being the one helping others; asking for help herself seemed out of the question.
“I was totally humiliated and in total despair before I even opened my mouth here,” she said of the moment she stepped in to the PATH building. “And they gave me the biggest gift. They gave me dignity and they treated me with respect. … They told me that a lot of people were going through some hard times, and there was no degradation in asking for help.”
That was last August and today, Ms. Adams owes only two months of rent and is closer to being better off than she has been in years, she said.
“I would never have been this close to having it resolved ever on my own, if I had not stepped out and asked for help,” she said during a recent interview at the PATH offices.
PATH stands for People Attempting To Help and for 27 years the agency has served the low-income residents in Smith County.
Growing up, Ms. Adams said she knew poverty. Her father was a migrant worker traveling wherever fruit needed to be harvested. Ms. Adams was born in Florida, her brother in Missouri and her sister somewhere else, she said.
“I hadn’t even thought about remarrying,” she said. But at 39, she remarried a man most women only dream about.
“He was one of those I thought you read about in novels, that didn’t really exist, but they do,” she said.
But their happiness was cut short. Her husband died suddenly and Ms. Adams had few resources.
The loss put her into a tailspin emotionally, mentally and physically. For months, even years, after his death, she struggled.
“I never really, honest to God, thought I’d ever feel joy again after Joe died,” she said, her voice cracking. “And the minute I felt joy again, I got down on my knees and thanked God because I only had it for a second, but I knew if it came back for that second, that it would come back.”
Once Ms. Adams asked for help at PATH, she started to get back on her feet. She received food through the nonprofit’s food pantry, rent assistance and help paying utilities.
She also took in a young mother who was struggling; something that she said has given her purpose and friendship. But she still credits PATH with enabling her to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“When I got help, I finally thought, you know, I can make it,” Ms. Adams said. “I haven’t completely disappeared. … The biggest thing I left here with that day was hope and a little bit of dignity.”