Anisa was in and out of the foster care system growing up. In her home state of North Carolina, she was constantly moving from home to home. Now a mom of four young children, she had little confidence that she could provide anything different for her children, as she has always known a transient life. When she was introduced to Community of Hope, that changed. “Community of Hope gave me a place to stay, and that is how I got closer with my children. That gave me confidence. I feel better able to advocate for my family.”
Anisa moved to DC in 2019 to move in with her biological mother and sister. At the time she had nowhere else to go with her children. This was a difficult transition because the household wasn’t always peaceful. She shared, “Some days were worse than others. It was kind of always some type of conflict or fighting going on. I was living with my mom, but she didn’t want me to be there. I would sneak into the house to avoid her because we didn’t get along.”
Anisa struggled to secure stable housing, especially with young children. “When I was house-hopping, people got tired of me and my four children. I couldn’t call people like I used to.” After a fight with her sister, Anisa was asked to leave - ”she basically told me to get out and take my kids with me”.
That night, Anisa and her children ended up sleeping in her car because she had nowhere else to go. She was breaking down and feeling overwhelmed. With her mentor by her side encouraging her, Anisa took a walk for self-care and perspective. “What made me get through that moment was that my kids didn’t know anything that was going on – they were happy, so I knew I needed to be okay.”
Anisa called Virginia Williams Family Resource Center (VWFRC), the central point of intake for families experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness in the District. VWFRC tried to help Anisa resolve the issue with her mother but learning that wasn’t possible, VWRRC then referred Anisa to Community of Hope’s Triumph short-term family housing, run in partnership with the DC Department of Human Services. Our staff at The Triumph provides a safe place for families experiencing homelessness to stay while they get back on their feet. Here, families receive connection to Community of Hope’s integrative solutions, including case management, housing and job search, connection with a counselor for emotional wellness, programming for her children, and also opportunity to connect with Community of Hope’s nearby healthcare services.
Anisa stayed at The Triumph for 2 months, working with her dedicated Community of Hope case manager who helped her secure permanent housing quickly. Like many, she was nervous to enter the shelter system as a part of the transition to a more permanent home. “I had never been to a shelter before. I was surprised at how it was built. I thought, ‘this is a shelter?’ When I got to the room, it was nice, the bathroom was clean. I had initially envisioned that we would have to stay in a rundown hotel or sleep side-by-side with strangers. The kids called The Triumph the hotel. I didn’t want them to call it a shelter. It took them some time to get comfortable and wanting to be there. They wanted to go back to my mom's house, but I knew she didn’t want them there all the time. They adjusted well.”
It is not unusual for people to assume that staying in a shelter will be de-humanizing. Historically, shelters are overcrowded, do not have accommodations for children, and don’t connect people and families to additional resources to help them get out of a shelter and into permanent housing. Community of Hope is different. Our goal is to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring. With effective assessment and targeting of resources, we help stabilize families through services, financial assistance, and connection to mainstream resources. Anisa felt supported throughout her short time in the temporary housing unit.
“Ms. Lewis, at The Triumph – she is really fast and respectful. When I first came, I didn’t think I was supposed to be put in housing because I wasn’t eligible for placement. The month of September, I had got in contact with her and the day after that, she had found me placement. She would email me. She really works with me. It made me feel relieved and stress free. She made me feel like we were equal.”
After only 2 months of working with her Community of Hope case manager, Anisa was able to move into an apartment in late November 2020. She is currently studying for her GED test and wants to continue her studies to take the certification course to become a nail technician. When asked how she was feeling about this transition, she said ‘It's my first apartment. I’m happy. We don’t have to feel unwanted anymore. We can finally say, let’s go home.”