At 63 years old, Ira Mae is a great grandmother of three. After running away from home as a child, she cultivated a close relationship with her grandmother and remains close to her sister. She is energetic and opinionated — a real pull yourself up by your bootstraps type.
Despite her best efforts, though, she has been left homeless seven times, and has lived everywhere from a tent under a bridge in Charleston to her sister’s garage. Like many West Virginians, Ira Mae hates to ask for anything, but she eventually had enough and decided to come to Covenant House to ask for assistance. They helped her secure an apartment that kept her safe from the harsh conditions of living on the riverbank. Ira Mae is dedicated to helping others, and sometimes provides housing to friends in need so long as they are willing to get help for themselves.
“When I first got this place I cried. It’s a roof over my head. It’s very important to have something over your head because you’re freezing, and there are mice, bugs, rats, pos-sums, and raccoons.”
She worries about her daughter, who goes by Felicia, frequently: Felicia still lives on the riverbank and, at 43, has 12 children. She works cleaning houses to make ends meet, and hopes to connect more of her friends to Covenant House to get them off of the street and on track for success.