Published: Oct 09, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Oct 08, 2012 04:17 PM
Amanda had been homeless for more than 10 years. Only 28 years old, this means she had been homeless for the entirety of her adult life – living with her sister in Houston, a shelter in D.C. and, for the past two years, a tent in the woods of Carrboro.
This past May, Amanda and her two cats moved into their own apartment in Chapel Hill. How? First, Amanda’s own determination and follow-through; second, a symphony of community partners, orchestrated by the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness’ 100,000 Homes Taskforce.
The story began for me about a year ago when Amanda walked into the office of the Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) on Franklin Street with her very cute little dog, Paso. I can’t remember what brought Amanda up to our office that day, but from then on she became a daily presence at CEF. She began leading our weekly creative writing workshops, helping with outreach, working on her own goals, making savings deposits, and, sometimes, just hanging out on the computer. Through CEF Amanda was paired with two volunteer advocates, Audrey Boyles and Jon Young, who began partnering with her and working one-on-one to help her reach her goals.
This past January the Partnership to End Homelessness held its annual Point-In-Time count, documenting the number of homeless men, women, and children in Orange County. This year as a part of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, the count included a survey to identify the most medically vulnerable homeless individuals in our community. Based on these surveys, a collaboration of 15 local agencies joined together to create person-specific plans to help the most vulnerable individuals in our community find housing.
Amanda was one of the surveyed individuals and the 100,000 Homes Campaign prioritized her to receive services. A network of community services and organizations came together: A supportive housing voucher through OPC Shelter Plus Care; an affordable apartment through CASA; a security deposit from Housing for New Hope; comprehensive health services through the Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health; vaccinations for her cats through POP; household furniture from a graduating senior at UNC; and one-on-one support from her CEF advocates, as well as her community and church friends. It was stressful; it was mountains of paperwork.
“I kept waiting on the big joke,” says Amanda, “for everything to fall apart.”
On Amanda’s first night in her new apartment she hosted a housewarming party. A family of friends, case-workers, advocates, pastors, jogging-buddies, therapists and community supporters came together to share a meal and celebrate Amanda’s accomplishment. A few of us even brought sleeping bags and stayed with Amanda for her first night, so she would be comfortable sleeping in this new environment – spending her first night in her own bed in over a decade.
Amanda says having her own home means “constant baths, air conditioning, a bed, and a lock. I can lock my door, that’s a very big deal. Oh, and I can cook!”
It’s the things we take for granted. It’s the distance between surviving and living. It’s doors opened for Amanda to continue her education at Durham Tech and become a Nursing Assistant, or to one day open a rescue home for abused and abandoned cats and support them through recovery.
The Orange County 100,000 Homes Taskforce has collaboratively helped four other individuals similar to Amanda find housing since January, bringing wrap-around support from a network of agencies to ensure that those who are most at risk of losing their lives outside have the chance to build new lives in new homes. Get involved. Go to communityempowermentfund.org
or contact me at 919-200-0233 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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