When Patricia decided to get out of her abusive marriage, she knew her bold choice meant leaving a good job and friends. But it also meant safety for herself and her 12-year-old son. They moved 400 miles away to Washington, DC to stay with family and start again.
But life in DC was not easy. Her relative turned out to be verbally abusive as well, and Patricia and her son found themselves with nowhere safe to go. She sent her son to stay with a family member, while she bounced from couch to couch among acquaintances, looking for work so that she could afford a place to live. “I just had to get myself stable and secure again,” she said. “Not for me, but for my son.”
Though she had never received public assistance, Patricia finally admitted that she needed help. “I had to humble myself. Let’s face it: we were homeless,” she said. She went to DC’s emergency shelter and placed into Rapid Re-housing, a national program focused on best practices of Housing First which offers short-term rent subsidies and support services. It helps newly homeless families end their homelessness quickly.
After a few months of looking, she found a place that was willing to accept her as a Rapid Re-Housing tenant. She and her son moved into their new place in November 2013. “It wasn’t the best neighborhood, but it was ours,” she remembered. “My stress went down immediately.”
Her Community of Hope case manager connected her with resources she needed, especially job search assistance. She put her feet to the pavement and circulated her resume, applying to every job she could find. Finally, after 7 months of no luck, she got a call back from a hotel. She had her first day as a reservation agent in July, and has been there ever since.
As Patricia started receiving steady income and slowly regained financial stability, the program paid less and less of her monthly rent. By the time her year in Rapid Re-housing ended, the program was only funding $17 of her rent; she was successfully paying the rest herself. She had been budgeting and saving – so she was ready to be independent once the subsidy ended. “That first time I paid my whole rent, I was so proud,” she said. “I pay all my utilities too!”
Now, Patricia has been out of the program on her own for six months. She pays her rent on time, saves a little each month, and is even considering upgrading to a two-bedroom apartment.
“I don’t know where I would be without Rapid Re-housing,” Patricia reflected. “The program works; you just have to put in the effort. People are there to help and encourage you, but in the end, it’s up to you to succeed.”