There are so many people who are one paycheck away from being homeless. My name is Thomas, and for most of my life, I was one of those people. No matter how hard I worked, I always struggled to pull myself out of the financial trouble I was in. My paychecks were never enough and I was constantly battling against being homeless. Despite using every survival tactic I could, to stay in housing and stretch money and food, I eventually had to leave DC in order to find work and stability. For a short period of time, I experienced financial stability and was living well in North Carolina. Still, DC was my home, where my mother and family lived, and so I made plans to return.I found work quickly when I returned, but, again, it wasn’t enough. Within four months, my savings were gone. As I struggled to find balance financially and emotionally, I turned to drugs to hide my pain and problems. I knew that I needed to, but pride kept me from going into a shelter – I couldn’t believe that I had nowhere else to go. After a few nights on the street, I realized I had no other choice but to move in until I had a plan. After years of being in and out of the shelter, with inconsistent support from organizations that made promises they couldn’t keep.

I was connected with an organization called Pathways to Housing DC. From day one, it was completely different from my other experiences. Pathways DC stayed with me every step of the way, regardless of the issues I ran into. They were the first to offer me housing and completely walk me through the voucher process, which was key to enabling me to afford rent. Due to the vulnerability of my situation, I was prioritized and within two months of working with my team at Pathways DC, they were helping me move into my apartment. Having a home allowed me to find the ground under my feet, so that I could start working on the things that were getting in the way of me recovering my life, like my addiction and mental health issues.

Since first working with Pathways DC over a decade ago, I’ve never felt alone when confronting medical, housing, employment or personal issues. Whether they were working with me through the three year process of getting Social Security benefits, or helping me receive food stamps, I knew every question I had would be answered and that my team would connect me to any service I needed. However, it wasn’t until 2012, the year I lost my mother, that I truly realized the presence Pathways to Housing DC played in my life. It was the first time in many years that I felt lost again. My team recognized that I couldn’t manage the loss of my mother alone and encouraged me to attend psychiatric group counseling. My therapist made it comfortable for me to say what was on my mind. She, along with the support of my team, allowed me to heal after losing my mother.

Pathways DC will help you set and reach your goals, but first, you have to be willing to put in the work. Within the past few years, my team got me involved with a local program which helps to feed hungry families through monthly food bags.  They helped me reconnect with my family, including my son, who I had lost contact with while I was on the streets. I’ve also taken up praying and meditating and really focusing on the important things in my life- like my son’s graduation from college. To witness my son walk across the stage to receive his degree made me the proudest dad. I’m in a great place with my family, we stay in touch and are able to support each other. I would have never experienced these life changing moments had it not been for Pathways DC, who, even 10 years later, still help me find the hope and purpose within me everyday.