Tonier “Neen” Cain recalls a time in her life when she ended up homeless in Annapolis, Maryland’s streets for 19 years.

“I was married as a teenager. I was left in the streets really because the marriage failed,” Cain said. “Nineteen years ago, I was eating out of a trash can, prostituting sometimes for just a few dollars to get a hit of crack with 83 arrests and 66 convictions, being told I was mentally ill. [I was] homeless for almost 20 years, losing all of my kids and being treated like there was no hope for me. Now, I have a vessel of hope for others. It can be done.”

The trauma survivor transformed into an internationally recognized trauma-informed care expert. She emphatically stated that no one has the right to deem anyone hopeless. A trauma-informed approach to care acknowledges that healthcare organizations and care teams need to have a complete picture of a patient’s past and present life situation to provide effective healthcare services, according to the Trauma-Informed Care Implementation Resource Center.

“No matter what the record says, no matter what they look like, smell like or whatever, because that was me,” Cain said.

Today, Cain even works with judges. She shared that she is known in 60 countries around the world for her work, in addition to speaking and working in every state in our country, including Alaska and Hawaii. 

“Her work has been used as a model in other countries for the establishment of their trauma-informed care protocols,” per information provided on her website,

Cain’s endeavors include CEO and founder of Purposeful Entertainment. The media production company produces television shows, films and documentaries. She also spearheads Tonier Cain International, a training company for trauma informed care. Additionally, Cain wears a publisher’s hat through TCI Publishing House. Neen Cares, Inc. is Cain’s nonprofit. Through it, free services are provided for trauma survivors. 

“I have days named after me by governors and mayors around the country,” Cain said, while speaking from Los Angeles, California.

Despite Cain’s accomplishments, her central issues predated drugs. Sexual abuse, molestation and neglect that occurred during childhood affected her. Cain’s children were later conceived amid Cain’s dark period.

“I think one of the worst things that’s happened to me was the fact that my children were being rightfully taken away from me [by the Department of Social Services],” Cain said. “I was homeless. I was a drug addict and I would have these kids and I got used to the rapes. I would just push dirt off my shoulder, take the leaves out of my hair from being dragged in the woods and go back to the streets. I got used to drug dealers taking bats and breaking bones in my body for finding their stash, but I couldn’t get used to somebody taking my child out of my arms, turning their back, never for me to see my kids again. There are no drugs out there to take away that pain.”

Cain also stated that she was suicidal.

“Crack helped me to numb myself and stopped me from trying to continue to kill myself. Fortunately, I was able to find a healthier tool to stop the drugs. A lot of people didn’t. I know a lot of people that use drugs that numb and they perished before they could get help,” Cain said.

“From 1990 to 2004, I had 30-some failed treatments,” Cain said, explaining what happened next. “And what I mean by failed treatments is that I was getting treatments that weren’t helping me, because I had trauma in my life that I needed to get to the core issues of it and they weren’t.”

Cain stated that she was terrified about losing another child, while in prison pregnant again.

 “I cried out to God in a prison cell 19 years ago, and I’ve never had another desire to use drugs, alcohol or even smoke a cigarette,” Cain said.

A turning point in Cain’s life unfolded when she was able to go from prison to a trauma program in Baltimore called Tamar’s Children program. Cain explained that she had been previously misdiagnosed as schizophrenic or bipolar. She was overmedicated. The program helped with her mental health. Cain was able to keep her daughter and form a secure attachment.

 “I wasn’t mentally ill. I had unresolved trauma. The drugs were my self-medication,” Cain said. “I needed to be able to be delivered from all the things that happened to me, for me to be able to get healthy tools. The way that I was able to do that was through my faith in Jesus Christ. I tried the worldly ways, but I needed to be set free by Jesus Christ and He set me free!”

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