Your neighbor in the family shelter
When I introduced D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) at the groundbreaking for a new short-term family housing building in Ward 4, I had just moved out of D.C. General Family Shelter and into my own apartment. I was excited to participate in the groundbreaking because, as I had recently learned, with the right supports, a shelter experience can be lifechanging for a family.
I spent the first six years of my life growing up in the Trinidad neighborhood. When I was 6 years old, I entered foster care. When I was 13, I asked my foster mom to adopt me, and she did. After graduating from high school, I joined the Army but soon returned home after injuring my knee. When I was 20 and in a job-training program, I became pregnant with my daughter. After my daughter was born, I spent several years living with friends and family members. Eventually, however, I ran out of people to stay with. In 2016, I turned to the District’s shelter system for support, and my daughter and I were placed in a motel.
I love working with children. I am the vice president of the parent-teacher association at my daughter’s school and, one day, I hope to work in education myself. My smart and talented daughter is getting ready to start fourth grade. She learned to spell her name when she was just a toddler, and today she proudly reads far above grade level. She loves cheerleading and school and has big goals for her future: She already talks about attending Banneker High School and Stanford University and becoming a doctor when she grows up.
This spring, I learned that my daughter and I would be moving from our motel shelter placement into D.C. General, the large family shelter in Ward 7. Even though I had heard bad things about D.C. General, I was excited for this opportunity because I knew that if I got into a shelter, I would have better access to the supports and services that could help get us into permanent housing.
As it turns out, for me, being able to work with an active and supportive case manager made all the difference. Because of my case manager’s support and my own determination to find an apartment, I was able to move out of D.C. General only one month after moving in.
D.C. General worked for me, but it is not working for everyone. For some people, it is too far from school and work, and because it is so big, not everyone has the same positive experience getting services that I did. As the District gets ready to shut down D.C. General and replace it with smaller shelters throughout the District, I know that some community members are nervous about having a facility in their neighborhood. But I ask all Washingtonians to give the families who will use these shelters a chance. Parents who bring their children to shelters are looking for a safe place to lay their head at night and a little help getting life back on track. In fact, the families in these shelters might turn out to be the best neighbors you have ever had.
Today, not even three weeks after leaving D.C. General, I am adjusting to life in my own apartment. I am working on making a budget and thinking through how I can go back to school, and I have already told my mom that, like her, I will need to learn how to coupon. But I will figure it out. I’ve been through much tougher times, and I am up for this new challenge.