Diamond Wilson is an incredibly hard-working mother of five 5 young children. “I love being a mom! When I’m in sad situations, they [my children] help me. To see their little faces is a blessing.”
Diamond had grown up with unstable housing. “During my childhood, we were in and out of transitional housing, shelters, the whole list. I didn’t know I could do better, and when I grew up, I had the mindset that I could always move. We didn’t have anywhere to go, and I didn’t see light at the end of the tunnel.”
The complexities of unstable housing affect many major areas of life, and many people face common, yet difficult barriers to gain stability in their lives. Common barriers like having limited access to transportation, finding reliable childcare to gain or retain consistent employment, and managing upfront costs to access housing, such as needing first and last month’s rent. These obstacles made Diamond feel overwhelmed and worried. “I ended up going to Virginia Williams Center and expressed that I had nowhere to go. They sent me to a counselor at Community of Hope and I was put in the shelter at 6th Street (The Triumph). Our case manager was working towards finding us an apartment and explained step by step the goals we needed to set in place.”
The Triumph is the Ward 8 Short-Term Housing Site, part of Mayor Bowser’s plan to have safe, dignified housing for families in every DC ward and is one of three temporary housing sites Community of Hope provides. This program is designed to bridge families with necessary and useful resources to gain more permanent housing and employment with the help of a case manager and team.
Diamond’s circumstances were still incredibly challenging. Working towards goals such as improving credit, finding a home she could afford, and getting stable employment still felt out of reach. However, she was committed to providing a different life for her children. “When we moved, my kids thought, ‘we are moving again.’ It definitely affected them because they didn’t know that we shouldn’t have to move again. This time I said enough is enough.”
After being at The Triumph for two months, Diamond got her own apartment. “First thing I remember doing at my apartment was moving my stuff in and cooking a meal for me and my family. It was a big sigh of relief. At that time, I had to remind myself it doesn’t stop here. You have to keep pushing. On that third day of living there, it was time to find jobs.” She moved out of the Triumph with help from Community of Hope’s Rapid Re-Housing program which supports families by providing short term rental and utility assistance, giving people time to find stable employment without having to worry about how the bills are going to be paid. We know that with a few months of assistance, people can become stably housed for years to come.
Working with her dedicated Community of Hope case manager and employment specialist, Diamond began to look for work. “My goal was to apply for 20 jobs a day. I was exceeding 20 a day because I was so stressed out wondering what bills I could pay. My employee specialist helped me fix my resume. And then after, that he would send me tons of employers hiring and I would sit in my house and just apply.”
The COVID-19 pandemic made this process even more difficult. “It was horrible. It changed a lot for us as far as jobs, set me back with school and daycare. The kids doing virtual learning – it's tough because I still have to work and be a teacher.” Diamond was offered more than one job which helped her feel confident and provided her some options. Once she was employed, she continued to work with her case manager to develop a plan to gain and maintain stability long term.
Diamond’s resilience and dedication proved successful. She is currently working full-time as a Special Police Officer after becoming licensed in August 2020. She feels confident there is room to grow in the field and is excited about her future. That, however, is not where Diamond’s future passions lie. She is inspired and driven to be able to provide support and hope for others the way that Community of Hope has provided hope and supported for her.
“Anything I needed they were there. It didn’t matter what. If they didn’t have it, they would find me a resource to get it. I want to start my own shelter program one day. I want to be a resource for other families dealing with homelessness. I’ve lived it for the majority of my life. One wrong move, or one missed payment, you’re out. There are people who have children sleeping in cars. I was blessed to be put into a shelter and other programs at Community of Hope. We want to help because we know how it feels.”