Patria Harrell smiled as she relived the moment her family moved into their new home. Patria, a DC native and working mother of three boys, made many sacrifices so her family could have stable housing.
“I kissed the floor when I first walked into my unit. It was everything that I asked for.” Patria was able to surprise her kids the weekend they returned from school and their reactions were more than she could have hoped for. “We walked in the door, and my boys asked, whose house it was? When I told them it was ours, they were jumping up for joy and crying. My oldest son told me no matter what we had been through, I didn’t give up. For him to see his mom only wants the best for him and his brothers, touched me so much.”
Their reaction was the natural result of a difficult journey that involved a period of homelessness and, before that, a tough neighborhood. Patria shares their home wasn’t a safe environment for her kids. “We were living in the worst projects. Someone was killed in front of our door, people were dealing drugs in the hallway, there were gangs, and our home kept getting broken into. We couldn’t live there.” The family entered a housing program which was unexpectedly closed. “I was devastated it closed. During that time I didn’t know how to deal with stress. I was going through a lot. All I kept thinking was, this can’t be life.” Patria was able to get her kids in a DC boarding school that provided housing 5 days a week for all enrolled students. But, for Patria, she continued working full-time and spent many nights staying with different people. “As a mother, you are supposed to protect your children. I had to make tough decisions for mine and sending them away during the week was one.”
Life started to shift for Patria after she connected to the Rapid Re-Housing program at Community of Hope – a program designed to help families experiencing homelessness exit shelter quickly and move into their own homes. This program provides short- to medium-term rental and utility assistance and supportive case management services. After much research and many apartment visits, Patria was able to secure a unit.
When Patria was assigned a case manager, her journey towards self-sufficiency continued. With added help from her dedicated Community of Hope case managers who conducted evening studying sessions and quizzes, Patria received her high school diploma. She also received client support money from Community of Hope which enabled her to take a Special Officers Training (SPO) class to become SPO certified. “My case managers kept me so encouraged. They came to my house after hours and helped me study to get my high school diploma. That was amazing to me. My own family didn’t do that. But they trusted and believed in me.”
Patria started receiving emotional wellness services at Community of Hope and continued to make remarkable progress. Patria says her success in the Rapid Re-Housing program, is largely because she wanted to finally live life on her terms, not be limited to anything, and be able to live life comfortably. Patria’s strong drive allowed her to exit the Rapid Re-Housing program having gained new life skills in budget and money management, dealing with stress, and eating healthier foods. “The program was a platform for me to get into a better routine. It made me want to live a better life.” In the future, Patria hopes to start her own non-profit providing community outreach and support for others, especially for the youth in Ward 8.
“I had a good team and support system at Community of Hope. I was fortunate enough to have individuals not aiming for [their] paycheck but [who] cared for me. Community of Hope helped me reach a high level of independence – a maximum level of independence and I’ll be forever grateful.”
Last year, Community of Hope provided housing stability for 1,159 families including services for nearly 300 Rapid Re-housing families.
For more information about our housing programs, please visit our website at https://www.communityofhopedc.org/housing/programs. If you would also like information about emotional wellness or other health services, please visit https://www.communityofhopedc.org/healthcare/emotional-wellness.