How Pathways DC "Guided" Mary Home
Mary was born in DC General Hospital on a rainy Wednesday morning. She spent a large portion of her life living on the streets of DC as a result of a tumultuous childhood. At an early age, Mary lost her mother and was sent to live with a grandmother, who loved her, but was unable to protect Mary from an uncle who sexually assaulted her multiple times. When child protective services removed Mary’s brother and her from their grandmother’s care, they spent the next four years cycling in and out of foster homes, until she turned 18 and left without a plan. While experiencing homelessness, Mary slept in the doorway of storefronts along North Capitol Street. In order to survive, she turned to the only work she had ever done, prostitution, which only left her beaten, abused, and alone, feeling absolutely hopeless.
Mary’s turbulent road continued throughout her 20’s, as she gave birth to two children while still living on the street. It was a terrifying period of her life, moving from one apartment to the next, and she tried to numb the pain by drinking and smoking marijuana. Because of Mary’s inability to care for her children, she was forced to give them up for adoption to ensure a more stable upbringing. After they were removed from her care, she worked to find her footing and turned to a long-time friend, who provided Mary with shelter and helped her reconnect with her faith. Just as she felt life was moving in a positive direction, Mary discovered she was pregnant by her then boyfriend, who started abusing her. Knowing that she had to leave this toxic environment, she found security in a domestic violence shelter for women, where a case manager from Pathways to Housing DC was introduced to Mary. This was the year Mary’s life drastically changed, and for the better.
When her team at Pathways DC initially met with Mary, she thought the services they offered were wonderful, but she was not ready to accept their help. Mary had been let down many times before by people in her life and other organizations, and had also just gone through the pain of giving her third child up for adoption. Mary’s team understood that it would take time for them to build her trust. Over the course of many months, her team broke down her guarded walls, and Mary slowly started believing she was worthy of the help she deserved. Mary’s team began by assessing her physical and mental health, and after her first visit, diagnosed Mary with not only HIV, but also bipolar disorder. The vulnerability of her situation allowed Mary’s team to quickly secure a housing voucher and within weeks they helped move Mary into her very own apartment. Mary was overcome with happiness the day she moved in.
When she was younger, Mary always dreamed of meeting the right man, having two kids, and enjoying life with her family. She only ever wanted to be happy. There were times over the years where Mary thought she was content with her life, but she told her team many months after moving into her apartment, “I can honestly say that it was not until I received my keys that I felt true happiness. I would not have succeeded without the help of my “guiders,” (Mary’s term for her team at Pathways DC) because they always kept me on the right path and never gave up on me.” Because of Pathways DC, Mary learned how to not only believe in people but to also trust in people again. Today, she’s truly happy and living out her dream.
We need your help to continue offering real solutions to end chronic homelessness in Washington, DC.