The woman having her hair cut and styled in this photo just moved into her very own apartment this month with her son.
I want to tell you her amazing story because she turned her life totally around with the help of so many wonderful people in our area. You can help people just like her in your own communities. Having a supportive group of committed advocates means the world to people who are experiencing homelessness.
She now has her son back from child protective services custody, she achieved sobriety about two years ago, she has her own car, a professional job in a health care facility and now, her very own apartment in the suburbs. She has repaired her previously damaged credit rating and her son is enrolled in a wonderful school district.
Yes.. it can be done!!
She was very determined herself. I met her when she contacted me after reading a comment that I'd posted on syracuse.com, the area online news outlet. She was living outdoors at that time but used her computer skills to search online for help.
It's been about two and a half years since then. First, she found on her own a wonderful transitional housing program for women via the Onondaga County YWCA and entered it soon afterwards. This provided her with temporary housing in a supervised environment along with supportive assistance from a wonderful staff and a group of residents helping each other. She told me that being held strictly accountable for her actions and behavior was exactly what she needed and she's very grateful for that. This is the best program by far for homeless individuals that I've ever seen. Thank you to program manager par excellence Fanny Patricia Villarreal!!
Several of my friends here on Facebook provided assistance. These include #Bijou Salon, #The Krebs Skaneateles Restaurant Foundation, J&T Car Care and Repair plus quite a few others who helped her including with raising funds to get an old utility bill paid.
As I've so often written, "It takes a village."
All along, she's helped me with distribution of holiday gift donations and in my outreach work with other homeless individuals. I'm so happy for her and so very grateful to everyone who's helped her.
One caveat: most often the people I assist are severely disabled with brain injuries, psychiatric disorders and other very crippling conditions. These individuals most often won't do well in a such a highly structured transitional living program and need to go directly into a Housing First program. Ideally, a Housing First program provides intensive supportive services accompanied by disability assistance and extensive health care services. One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to the provision of homeless housing services.
Let all of us who assisted in any way take a victory lap along with this wonderful woman!!