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A Story of Empowerment: How Tiffany Crum Defied the Odds by Turning her Pain into Purpose

It isn’t always easy to pick ourselves up and continue fighting when we’re knocked down, but sometimes it takes losing everything to realize the sheer amount of strength we possess. This is where empowerment begins.


Tiffany Crum was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and moved to West Virginia with her family when she was in middle school. She began dating her now fiancé, Brent, in high school, and the two became closely intertwined.

As time passed, Tiffany gave birth to three sons. She and Brent had begun building their lives together as a family when they were faced with the life-altering circumstances of homelessness and addiction.


Crum’s battle with addiction began when she was 14 and lasted until she was 31. Brent also struggled with substance abuse. The couple and their children lived with Brent’s grandfather until he passed away in 2019.

They struggled to find a new place to live due to their condition, and with nowhere else to turn, they became homeless and lost custody of their sons. This is when Tiffany knew it was time to seek help.


“My children have been my strength in more ways than one," said Crum. "I know that may sound cliche, but considering where I used to be in life compared to now, I can honestly say that my children impacted my growth the most. In order to love them the way they deserved to be loved, I had to take care of myself.”


After spending a brief period in jail, Tiffany was released into a recovery program for substance use disorder, relocating her from Weston to Charleston. Unfortunately, she was kicked out of the program and became homeless once again.


Having nowhere to go, she started living under the bridge at Magic Island. “I remember digging through the nearby dumpster for food and having to bathe in the river with my clothes on,” she said. Thankfully, Kathy Hudson from Spirit Life Fellowship’s Street Ministry found her and took her to YWCA Sojourner’s Shelter for Homeless Women & Families, where she stayed off and on between October of 2019 until April of 2021.


“I never knew a place like that existed. It was structured, safe, and warm, and I was so thankful to just be able to shower. I was able to get clothes, and most importantly, a bed. Those were huge to me during those times.”


During her stay at Sojourner’s, Tiffany received rides to various churches in the community and ended up making King’s River Church in St. Albans her home church. “I learned that if Christ could love and forgive me after all I’d been through, I could eventually grow to love and forgive myself.” Crum said her faith inspired her to pursue recovery and take the necessary steps to get her sons back.


She began her sobriety journey and made the difficult decision to temporarily separate from Brent until he could prove that he was committed to getting clean. She recounted the compassion of the Sojourner’s staff and how they comforted her in her darkest hour.


Tiffany was given a list of things to do to become self-sufficient, and she worked steadily on taking the necessary steps toward independence. She was able to get an ID, birth certificate and social security card, which allowed her to get her own job, car and place to live. Brent got on the path toward sobriety and the couple reunited. After three years and being told that she would never see her children again, she finally regained custody of all three of her sons. The family was selected to have a house built for them by Habitat for Humanity, and Brent and Tiffany are getting married this summer.


“The life that I have now used to be prayer requests,” said Crum. With two years of sobriety under her belt, she now lives with her family in Charleston and is a state-certified supportive counselor at WVU Medicine Thomas Hospital for people working to overcome substance use disorder.

“I think it’s pretty amazing how the one thing that almost took my entire life away is the same thing that allows me to actually succeed in my position. I like to use the phrase ‘Pain to Purpose.’ That statement describes my entire life in a nutshell.”


Crum still attends church regularly and participates in a 12-step life group called Stepping into Freedom. In addition, she joined the Spirit Life Fellowship Street Ministry, the same ministry that brought her to Sojourner’s. “I now get to minister to people living under the same bridge that I used to. It means so much to me.”


Tiffany is honored to be the recipient of the 2024 Encova Empowerment Award and is looking forward to attending the luncheon on March 8.


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