Center News
July 26, 2023
CCC Testimonials: “I am a survivor."
Since 2018, Burchette has worked as a shift supervisor for CCC, using her perspective as a former resident to serve and connect with those at the shelter.

Breanna Sapp 

Community Crossroads Center staff member Joanne Burchette offers a unique perspective to those that walk through the center’s doors each evening in search of shelter - the CCC shift supervisor of five years was once homeless herself.

“I have always been an advocate of those that are not just homeless, but those that are addicted, broken, victims of domestic violence,” said Burchette, who sat beside her son Isaiah as she reflected on her experience. “Because I am a survivor.”

For years, Burchette battled addiction and mental health issues following the loss of her mother in 2006. Just five years later, her 18-year-old daughter passed away in Morehead City, NC, leaving Burchette with little family and an increasing struggle with her depression. 

While in therapy, Burchette heard of a mental health service clinic located in Greenville, NC hiring peer support mentors to guide those battling mental illness, trauma and substance abuse.

Seeing that the position allowed for her to mentor others based on her own experiences with depression and addiction, Burchette moved to Pitt County in 2012 with her son Isaiah and began her role as a Peer Support Specialist at Le Chris Health Systems. 

“If I did not go through what I went through in my lifetime, I would not be who I am today. I would not be able to give experience, strength and hope to others,” Burchette said. “Even with everything that I have been through, the loss, the trauma, the pain, the addiction, the hurt and the homelessness. I made it out.”

But in 2015, the organization faced budget cuts and Burchette was forced to leave the position. Shortly after, she became homeless.

In addition to her unemployment, Burchette had recently enrolled in Pitt Community College to earn a degree in social work and substance abuse. It was at this point that Burchette decided it was best to send Isaiah to live with his father.

That same year, Burchette visited CCC to inquire about the center’s emergency shelter. She remained a resident at the center for six months. Not long after her stay at the shelter, Burchette started a new chapter of her life that would lead her to her role at CCC today.

“It just touches my heart, because how awesome is a story where, once was employed, once was homeless (and) went through the struggle of not having my son for so long. But I had to let go,”  Burchette reflected. “I had to let go and let God, and then in that time He will make that decision.”

After meeting with a CCC caseworker, Burchette was able to pay off her eviction costs and transition from the shelter into an apartment through the North Carolina Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program

Though she now had safe housing, Burchette was met with new challenges. Still struggling with addiction, Burchette overdosed in 2016 - that year she also suffered from several health issues that had forced her to drop out of school.

While Burchette found herself facing new battles, she had discovered an outlet for her pain through the Reformers Unanimous recovery program through Trinity Baptist Church. It was here that Burchette says she took her first step toward a path of healing.

“What (Reformers Unanimous) taught me was to embed the word in my life and to give everything that hurt me, everything that bound me, to give it to Christ. And those chains were broken,” said Burchette. “I had to forgive those that hurt me, and I had to forgive myself for things that I had done in my life too.”

As she fought to overcome her addiction and better her health through the recovery program, Burchette also found herself back at the shelter she once called home for six months - this time as an employee.

Since 2018, Burchette has worked as a shift supervisor for CCC, using her perspective as a former resident to serve and connect with those at the shelter. 

Because of her own experiences with homelessness, Burchette says she feels a deep compassion for CCC residents that has only grown throughout her time at the center.

“I tell ladies, ‘I get it, I was on that top bunk right there and I had to sleep there for six months,’” said Burchette.

Though she admits returning to the shelter as an employee was difficult at first, Burchette says she has found a newfound passion for advocacy within her role. She describes herself as an advocate for not only the homeless, but those suffering from mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence.

“I wouldn’t be where I’m at, I wouldn’t be stable because (Community) Crossroads did help me, you know, they did help me. And I did not know that I was going to come back here and work,” Burchette said. “And at times I want to walk out that door, because it gets hard, because I am human. But then God reminds me why I’m there.”

Last year, Burchette moved into a two-bedroom house without government assistance, making room for her son Isaiah to move back home. Isaiah often volunteers at CCC alongside his mother, serving meals or chatting with residents in his free time.

When the two have the opportunity, Burchette and Isaiah purchase supplies or cook meals to donate to the center.

Since living with his mother and volunteering at CCC, Isaiah says he has grown more aware of what residents at the center face each day. Because of his mother’s own experiences with homelessness, Isaiah has a unique understanding of those who are homeless.

“Some people don’t view them as human beings and that’s what I realized, that they’re human beings also, and they have families, that they have a life, that they matter,” Isaiah said as he reflected on his mother’s journey. “They’re human beings just like anyone else. Treat them with respect, be kind to them, treat them like you’d treat your own mother.”

As Burchette continues her work at CCC and helps Isaiah settle in following his recent return, she hopes to return to Pitt Community College to finish her social work and substance abuse degree.

Though homelessness may seem like a faraway problem for most, Burchette emphasized the importance of nonprofits such as CCC for the entire community and the role the center plays for Pitt County’s homeless population.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, where you work, what you’re a part of, you can become homeless because things happen in life,” she concluded. “This is called Crossroads Community Center. I say this is a crossroads in your life, a bump in the road. It is a place where you can get back on your feet.”