“Mommy, my arm hurts.”
Bianca Bynum was sleeping in bed at home one night in April when she heard two loud sounds followed by that cry. Her motherly instinct catapulted her out of bed to go check on her sons, eight-year-old Leonte and six-year-old Kamari.
Not quite seeing them in the dark, Bianca heard her youngest son’s cry for help. When Bianca got to her son, she realized that her door had been kicked down and “my son had been shot!”
Luckily, Kamari’s major arteries were not hit by the stray bullet. He was discharged with thick white bandages wrapping his arm. But that night and never since, Bianca and her sons did not go home. They no longer felt safe in that apartment – with its broken door and echoes of gunshots.
In 2011, Bianca and her family got connected to Community of Hope’s Permanent Supportive Housing program. After couch-surfing at friends’ homes, they found themselves with nowhere to go. In DC General, the largest family shelter in the city, they quickly learned that it is “best to keep to yourself,” she said.
Fast forward to that April night, Bianca, shaken up, reached out to her most trusted support systems: her mother and her Community of Hope case manager, Amy. She temporarily moved into her mom’s home while Amy and our team helped her find a new home to start over. Bianca and her family suffered a traumatic experience and needed a hopeful outcome.
For housing clients, there are many layers to homelessness. First, comes the experience of losing one’s home and then moving into shelter. Then, rebuilding life with finding a new home and household goods, and sometimes a new job.
But that is not all. An avalanche of other challenges may erupt. Often times, those challenges are completely unexpected and cause considerable trauma for families, exposing vulnerable children to a number of stressors.
According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Center, homelessness “puts families in situations where they are at greater risk of additional traumatic experiences such as assault, witnessing violence or abrupt separation.”
Prioritizing Bianca and her children’s safety, Community of Hope helped Bianca relocate to a safe home in a quiet NE neighborhood. When all of her possessions were stolen that night, Community of Hope worked with our generous partners at The Invisible Hand Foundation, Inc. to help her get new furniture. The boys got new Ninja Turtle sheets and school uniforms too. They’re happy, healthy and safe.
Trauma can be a one-time event or ongoing complex stressors that cause emotional or physical pain. Problems can quickly compound and become a crisis. Across Community of Hope, our programs address the effects of trauma. For patients in our healthcare programs, we offer behavioral healthcare that is integrated into patients’ regular healthcare to help our clients and patients manage and cope with depression, trauma or anxiety. Our housing program create opportunity for families to have a safe, stable roof over their heads and tools to maintain that stability, despite what challenges may arise. They may receive therapy as patients with us or from referrals for other emotional wellness programs as needed.
To break the cycle of homelessness, and lower the risk of trauma, we work with youth to help them achieve developmental, academic and social milestones through our mentoring program and youth specialists.
“Bianca is such a beautiful woman, inside and out. She is dedicated, resourceful, smart and caring. I'll never forget the phone call she gave me after this awful incident,” Amy shares. “My heart just dropped.”
“But she constantly tells me that she cannot dwell on the past, but chooses to press on for her children. She makes me so proud.”
Today, Kamari is as active as ever. His smile is the first thing you see and will always remember.