|"Working with Pathways DC makes you feel good that somebody cares. By Pathways DC caring and believing in me when no one else did, I’m caring and believing in people again, too."
As a child growing up in North Carolina, I never imagined I’d end up homeless in Washington D.C. My name is Robert and I grew up with a wonderful and supportive family. My parents took care of me and my two brothers and three sisters. We were doing well until my father died unexpectedly when I was 10, sending our family into a period of chaos. My brother stepped up to the plate and helped support us, but our family still struggled financially. When I got a little older my mom became ill, with what would we would eventually learn was multiple sclerosis, making an already strained home situation even more complicated. I decided, then and there, that I would do whatever I could to help my mother, leading me to enter the nursing field so that I could learn how to take care of her. I became her caretaker for 19 years, until she eventually passed away. When she died, my heart shattered. I had to get out of North Carolina. I couldn’t take the pain living at home without her there. I moved to DC with my girlfriend who was from the DC area. We got married and made plans for our new life in DC.
Unfortunately, I ran into several setbacks when I tried to get my license to nurse in the District. It was all I knew and I felt a sense of loss that felt connected to the recent loss of my mother. Not being able to practice nursing, and dealing with all the grief I had in my heart ultimately made my marriage fall apart and after my divorce I ended up homeless. I stayed in a shelter for a long time, trying to keep myself occupied by working odd jobs where I could – it was difficult to get much more than a small part time job because of my lack of a permanent address. Living in a shelter might get you a roof over your head for a night but it’s not a way to live. I felt hopeless and afraid when I was staying there, never feeling like my belongings were safe or like I could be at peace. I felt like I was just biding my time with no real direction or hope for the future. All of that changed when I started working with Pathways to Housing DC in 2004.
One day, I came back to the shelter on a Wednesday night and they told me not to go to work the next day because people from an organization called Pathways to Housing DC would be here with the keys to my new apartment. They helped me get my birth certificate from North Carolina, an ID, food stamps, really everything I needed to have my own place and succeed in it. After living in and out of the shelter, I felt relieved to have my own place – it had been a very long time since I had something to truly call my own. Working with Pathways DC, I found out they offered so much more than housing – they immediately went to work with helping me open up about my mom’s passing, something I had never done before. They also started working with me on my physical health, which had gotten worse from years on the streets. But none of that would have been possible without my apartment. Since moving into my new home, I have been able to reconnect with my family, which includes my children and new grandbabies that I recently met for the first time!
I’m truly grateful for everything that Pathways DC has done for me and, now, my family. Pathways DC has inspired me to give back and help whoever I can. If I see someone on the street who’s hungry, I’ll get them something to eat or take a minute to stop and talk to them about their day. Even though I had a stroke which makes it more difficult, I still try to help everybody else in whatever ways that I can. Working with Pathways DC makes you feel good that somebody cares. By Pathways DC caring and believing in me when no one else did, I’m caring and believing in people again, too. They have shown me that help is out there, even when you’re not looking for it. Pathways to Housing DC has started me on a wonderful journey of reclaiming my life and rebuilding my family. I’ll always be thankful for that.