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Vicki Petty

Vicki Petty, of Louisville, Ky., is staying at the Women’s and Family Shelter in Billings after coming to town with a carnival.

Vicki Petty's world fractured two years ago.

The Kentucky woman, weighed down with bipolar disorder complicated by booze and drugs, lost her anchor with the death of a family member.

"I had nowhere to go," she said. "I didn't want to burden anybody."

So she sobered up on her own and took to the road with a traveling carnival, embarking on a two-year period of homelessness.

"I think the last two years have been the worst in my life," she said. "Not knowing what's going to happen."

Last fall, the 52-year-old wanderer found herself stranded in Billings, severely depressed and off her medications for about a year. She met P.A.T.H. liaison Josh Hall at the Crisis Center.

"Josh just uplifted me," she said.

P.A.T.H. is preparing a mental health service plan for review. If she qualifies, Vicki will have access to medication again and a treatment plan. With help from her case manager, she has applied for shelter-plus care housing. Right now she is staying at the Women's and Family Shelter.

Shelter-plus care means she will be getting the wrap-around services she needs to treat her illness and to prepare her to stand on her own.

Her confidence grows every day.

"I'm ready right now to get back to work," Vicki said. "I'm one of those people that don't like living off the state. If I can work, I'm going to work."

Her employment history includes factory work, waitressing and retail. She also loved working as a nanny.

"But what I really and truly enjoyed was being a nursing assistant for the elderly," she said. "I did that for two years."

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Lorna Thackeray can be reached at 657-1314 or