For persons experiencing homelessness, acquiring housing in the current market is almost impossible. For those who are housed, the fear of losing it can be just as daunting.
A Little Relief
She was stretched thin financially. Hearing there may be help available with heat, she came in looking for assistance with fuel. Before she left, a staff person asked if she needed food. She looked surprised. She was certainly eligible. I happened to be in my office as she was leaving, assured that her family would be warm and have food on the table. ‘I feel like I’ve died,’ she said, ‘and gone to heaven!’ She wasn’t talking to anyone in particular, but I clearly sensed that a burden had been lifted from her, at least temporarily.
After almost 2 years in a hotel, Dorothy and her daughter Candice (who provides care for her mother) are home. Long time tenants (over 20 years) of Addison County Community Trust, they were faced with uncertainty after a series of unforeseen circumstances landed them in the Middlebury Sweets hotel. With the teamwork of ACCT property management, John Graham Housing and Services, and CSAC, everyone was able to make that happen in March of 2022. ‘It feels like I am home,’ Dorothy shared.
Entering the zoom call, a pair of pink-hued glasses with white rims caught my attention. “Those are fantastic shades,” I commented. “Thank you, they help with the light and cast a pink tint that calms my brain.” She replied. “So, you see the world through literal rose-colored glasses. That is incredible.”
After hearing Josie’s story, it is amazing how much trauma one human being can endure, and yet she continues to remain positive and optimistic about people and her community. Up until a few years ago, Josie lived in NY with her two children and partner where emotional abuse was a regular occurrence. Then, she became ill. Josie started to experience chronic pain in her face, mainly around her eye due to inflammation of the trigeminal nerve. This severe facial pain would be triggered at any moment simply by chewing or speaking leaving her in pain and unable to eat or function.
Josie’s search for answers and a diagnosis was nothing short of a battle. With many visits to the local ER, she was provided medication and treatment time and again for migraines and instructed to reduce the stress in her life. As she continued to be overtaken by facial pain, her support system crumbled at home. After a hospital stay, she returned to emotional abuse from her partner and a growing fear for her own safety if she stayed in the home.
After thoughts of suicide, Josie made the difficult choice to leave her home and two children to find answers. Now homeless and still searching for a diagnosis, she was unable to find a primary care doctor in NY amidst the pandemic. Josie happened upon an article highlighting the work of a Neurologist currently located in Vermont. She hopped in the car and drove straight to the Howard Center only to find it was closed due to the pandemic. Utilizing 211, she was connected with Women’s Safe, CSAC, and Charter House almost immediately. They supported in getting the medical care she needed while providing a safe space for her physically and emotionally. “Porter actually listened to me and got me immediately into programs and provided support.”
In November of 2022, Josie met Alice, Property Manager for ACCT, when an apartment had become available in Middlebury. “I am in the center of town! Everything is here. I have a garden now and someone comes the 1st Wednesday of the month to give us plants and education on how to grow them.” She glows.
With her pain now in remission since she moved in, Josie attributes a large part of her recovery to having a safe and secure space she can rely on. “I can go to sleep and know I am going to wake up safe. This is huge.” She goes on to say “It is not only the apartment but the entire community.” With Women’s safe located with in walking distance, Josie calls it a “fairytale, really.”
“I didn’t feel safe in my home for years, then homeless, then traveling in my car. To finally have a home - my key - my name on the lease. It felt like Miracle on 34th street.” Josie has started over again and has taken up the guitar as well as college courses. “This has given me the time to restore my health and heal from domestic violence. I have been provided the resources to slow down, heal, come back, and sustain it. I am so grateful, nothing but gratitude.”
Josie’s advice for those facing mental health and housing challenges, “Watch who you spend your time with. Never EVER give up. Keep asking for help and if you’re not getting it – go somewhere else. Go where the love is.”