In 2012, my daughter and I began to swim across the pool of poverty in which hundreds of families, in DC, find themselves when they are classified as homeless. It was heartbreaking. I am a college graduate who wrote numerous papers that articulated my desire to defy the cycle of poverty. From adolescence to early adulthood, I engaged in academic exercise that was designed to prepare me for the marathon of strokes and kicks that would be required to move me away from the rip tides of adverse pathologies and into the calm waters of accomplishment. But somewhere along the way, I must have missed a few practices or skipped a couple of drills because there I was, in the water, treading, feeling unable to endure, without any indication of the distance I would need to cover to get my daughter and I out of the murky waters of despair.
I was optimistic at first. I have family in the metropolitan area and I figured that with their love, support, and generosity, I would be able to piece my life back together and move forward. I tried, but the barriers to establishing stability were immense. I suffered from mental illness that had long been hidden from family members and they did not know how support me and maintain their households at the same time. We moved from place to place, and it felt like I was drowning. Until, finally, we ended up in the DC shelter system. It was not the ideal circumstance under which to raise a child, but I started to find guidance toward the resources I needed to help my daughter and I find dry land.
We had been in the shelter system for about a year and a half when I was presented with an opportunity to apply for a living space with Hope and a Home. I was elated! Finally, I would have an opportunity to experience self-sufficiency again. After being accepted into the program, I received the keys to my own two bedroom apartment for which I am responsible for all the associated utilities. It makes me feel like a provider, an adult, a mother, and a productive member of society. The program has presented itself as the ladder to the helicopter hovering over my weakened body prepared to take me to safety and all I have to do is climb. And so I do.
When I was without a fixed address, I realized how multifaceted parenting is. Having your home is not just about the provision of physical shelter, there are skills that support emotional solvency that are indirectly cultivated by the atmosphere in the home. The freedom to create structure and boundaries assist in developing a safe space for your child to manifest a sense of self and responsibility. At the time I applied for Hope and a Home, I could not afford the market rent required for a two bedroom apartment in the District of Columbia. However, it was a necessary component of my parenting at this stage. Because of Hope and a Home, I have been able to stop my daughter from co-sleeping with me, we have worked on enhancing her self-soothing tactics, I have employed a consistent bedtime, and she has accepted the responsibility of making her bed and maintaining her own space. From field trips to gap camp, Hope and a Home inspires me to engage my daughter in experiences that enrich her life and exposes her to activities outside of her comfort zone.
In the past year, I have also been able to maintain employment. I have enrolled my daughter in school and she has been in engaged in extracurricular activities. Furthermore, I have volunteered at her school and I continue to make connections to resources around the city that are designed to empower those who are downtrodden by economic instability. Hope and Home is more than a transitional housing program. It is an incubator designed to nurse those who have been beat up by the waves of the same ocean in which they must dive to find that oyster we were all promised at birth. You know the saying, “The World is Your Oyster”. With wholistic case management that provides support with parenting strategies, education, financial planning, housing and employment searches we are encouraged to inflate our life jackets and get back into the water so that we may lay claim to the oyster we are all entitled to find.