3.5 years and 47 housing applications later, Diane is finally living in her own place. As she relaxes in her new home–her cat Phoebe in lap–she tells me about the hardships, joys, and friendships that have marked her journey of houselessness over the past several years. As we talk, Diane relays to me what seems to be the theme of her life during this time, ““Persistence. No matter where you are, you have to persevere and stay connected.”
Over the past few years, Diane had been dealing with housing insecurity, spending periods of time at a local shelter, temporary motel stays, and in a sober living community. Through her case manager at the local shelter, Diane connected with Thrive and over the years, she’s been working with both our advocates Britta and Abby. Over this past year, during her weekly appointments with Abby, Diane completed dozens of housing waitlist applications and connected with local resources. But for Diane, these appointments were much more than just a chance to work on finding housing. “It’s beyond a program. It’s friendship and connections. It’s not just an appointment–it’s what you make of it.”
As Diane and Abby got to know each other better and formed this connection, Abby was able to become an even better advocate for Diane. On the day that the two first met, Abby completed an assessment with Diane that puts Diane’s name in a pool to possibly receive an Emergency Housing Voucher, which is a long-term form of rental assistance. This evaluation involves asking the client many personal and often-convoluted questions about their life and experiences so as to try to capture the client’s “level of need” and thus decide how they should be prioritized for a housing voucher. After completing this assessment during their first meeting, Diane’s “score” was on the lower side, meaning she was less likely to be selected for a housing voucher. However, after weeks of meeting with Abby on a regular basis and telling her more and more about her story, the two redid the evaluation and Abby was able to point out questions with tricky wording that may have initially seemed to not apply to Diane’s situation, but in fact did. After redoing this assessment, Diane’s “score” was a lot higher and more reflective of the reality of her situation. And soon after that, she was selected to receive an Emergency Housing Voucher.
This story reminds us of the importance of forming relationships with those we work with. Over the years, Diane worked with several different case managers through the shelter, sober living facility, and Thrive. She tells me, “I challenged [my case managers], always asking them: What more could I do? What more could they do to help me?” Diane embodies determination and self-advocacy. She reminded me that being a good advocate for herself often involves pushing those with the resources and connections to be continually advocating for her. This meant months of weekly meetings and phone calls–during some of which Diane and Abby submitted several apartments applications or completed pages of paperwork for Housing Works and during others of which involved a simple check-in and hello. As someone who is legally blind, Diane knew she was limited in her ability to complete this work on her own. “You guys really accommodate for people with special needs,” she says, recalling all the times that Abby has met her in person to complete paperwork alongside her. And while Abby was happy to help complete these applications with Diane, it was really Diane’s perseverance and continued dedication that made it possible. “The more [housing applications] I put in, the faster things get done,” and after over a year of being on their waitlist, Diane finally made it into a local affordable housing community that she loves.
For Diane, moving into her own place meant finally being able to take a breath and invest in other areas of her life–which included adopting a new kitty from the Humane Society! Diane and cat Phoebe are now living in their new home and absolutely loving it. When describing her experience working with Thrive, Diane says, “I’m so happy and so thankful you guys make these opportunities for me and for other people. [Abby] has been my worker and my angel.”
The relationships we build with others while doing this work is such a gift, and we are so thankful to know Diane and for the opportunity to be a part of her story!