Jeannie, 61, spent the new year stably housed in a place to call her own for the first time in over fifteen years. After a vicious attack left Jeannie at her lowest, she was able to rely on the support of The Bridge program to be a place of refuge and recovery for her mind, body, and spirit.
For most of her life, Jeannie lived independently. With a successful career as a hairstylist working for a former presidential barber, Jeannie was able to create the life she wanted. She thrived in a role that allowed her to keep her hands busy while socializing with Washington's most sought after clientele. Jeannie was able to buy herself a car, live in a 2-bedroom condo, and put her daughter through private school. But in 1994, Jeannie was left without steady work as the clients found new salons.
Jeannie bounced around from hair salon to hair salon after she lost her job, but without established clients, she struggled to maintain a consistent income. “When you work on commission only, you don’t even make enough to buy a pack of cigarettes with your tips,” says Jeannie. While struggling to maintain financially, things were beginning to look up for her romantically. One night after her shift, she met and quickly fell in love with her then-boyfriend. It was a whirlwind romance. When her then-boyfriend suggested that she move in with him and get rid of her apartment, she could not refuse. She was feeling insecure about her job status and looked forward to relieving some financial burden—rent, utilities, and home maintenance.
Not long after moving in, Jeannie realized that this was not the fairytale she imagined. Jeannie recognized that the relationship with her boyfriend was becoming toxic as he started to control her every move. When Jeannie would spend time with her friends against his will, domestic violence entered the equation. "The main reason why I got homeless was because of domestic violence. Yeah, because I gave up my place to move in with a stupid guy. And the next thing you know they try to control you and acting all jealous and start beating you and make you quit your job, insecure men,” says Jeannie. In a position she never imagined being in, Jeannie had to get out. But with the little support and resources she had at the time, she ran to the streets, a place she believed would be safer than where she was.
For 15 years, Jeannie experienced homelessness in DC.
Then, in 2022, while living on the streets in the Adam's Morgan neighborhood, Jeannie experienced a horrific physical attack. Someone whom Jeannie thought she could trust attempted to sexually assault her in an alley, but Jeannie fought back with everything she had. This encounter left Jeannie with blunt-force trauma to her head and a broken jaw. Jeannie woke up in the hospital with her mouth wired shut. When it came time for Jeannie to leave, she had nowhere to go, so the hospital linked her with Community of Hope.
Jeannie entered Community of Hope's new Bridge Housing Program—a temporary housing program bridging individuals experiencing homelessness or in shelters to a more permanent housing situation. Jeannie was placed into a private room at The Bridge, where she spent four months safely nourishing her body and regaining her strength. "I was able to rest. I was able to close the door and lock it. I felt safe…. I always call it the safe house," says Jeannie.
Rebecca Fahrer, Community of Hope's Program Director at The Bridge, witnessed first-hand the transformation Jeannie underwent to move on in her life. "I remember when Ms. Jeannie first came to The Bridge, she was so weak, she struggled to walk the stairs," says Rebecca. "I love seeing the way Jeannie is rebuilding and being able to express herself."
In collaboration with Jeannie's Permanent Supportive Housing provider and with assistance from a housing voucher, Jeannie was able to locate a permanent home to transition into after The Bridge. In August of 2022, Jeannie was strong enough to move into her first apartment in over 15 years. "Everything is pretty new to me, so I am rediscovering myself. I am finding me," says Jeannie.
Jeannie is still healing and says she has PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from her attack, but despite her trauma, she remains hopeful and thankful for her second chance at life. "The Bridge helped me heal. If I had gone back to the streets after the attack, I would have ended up dead." When we asked Ms. Jeannie if she would like to say anything to the people that have helped her get where she is today; with a smile in her eyes, she said, "Thank you for everything."
Community of Hope’s temporary housing programs provide a safe place to stay for individuals and families experiencing homelessness while they get back on their feet. Our Bridge program at the Girard Street location supports approximately 40 individuals who had been in mass shelters or living in tents throughout Washington, DC as they finalize their next apartments.
Visit here to learn more about our temporary housing programs.