Ending homelessness is hard, but we know how to do it. For nearly a quarter of a century, House of Hope CDC has helped hundreds of women, men, and children find homes and reclaim their lives. Abby’s story is one example.
DURING the worst years, Abby couldn’t have imagined being where she is now, cooking pumpkin muffins in her fastidiously neat apartment in the George Galen Wheeler House, opened last year in Warwick by House of Hope. The contrast with the long period when she slept in basements and vacant houses still haunts her.
“I was considered a disposable person, a throwaway person,” Abby says.
NO ONE is born to be homeless.
Abby was 5 when her father, a policeman, died of cancer. She, her brother, and sister were often left alone by their mother. Men would come by and take little Abby for “rides.” When she was 12, a man living with her mother began sexually abusing her. After four years, Abby found the courage to tell her mother. You’re a liar, her mother said.
She moved in with a high school friend. After graduation, a promising career as a restaurant manager soured quickly. She befriended the wrong people; drank and took drugs; and lost one job after another. Disastrously, she turned to stealing, for example, posing as a doughnut store supervisor, and then leaving with the receipts. She always got caught, and she felt relieved to be back in prison. But when her term ended, the cycle began again.
ABBY came to House of Hope during a prison work release job.
Right away, she realized she was in a different place. The atmosphere was warm, the spirit of helping “contagious.” The staff was charmed, too. Abby always arrived with a joke; she was kind, positive and hardworking. Soon, Abby was answering phones, getting apartments ready for new families and helping in the food pantry.
“They care about what happens to you,” Abby says. “If you make a mistake, they don’t just chop you off at the knees.”
But it was not that simple. A minor rule infraction ended her work release privileges. Once out of prison, she returned to House of Hope and moved into the women’s shelter, but it wasn’t the same as her earlier work in the office. A second placement didn’t work out, either.
Still, Abby didn’t give up. Nor did those at House of Hope. Nor did her mentor from the prison days. Ending homelessness means working together over the long haul. When the Wheeler House opened, Abby was offered an apartment.
“THIS PLACE fills me with gratitude and hope,” Abby says. “I have a lot of brains. I want to be useful.”
She helps House of Hope with fundraising, soliciting donations and planning events. She volunteers at the Harrington Hall homeless shelter in Cranston. She’s on the House of Hope board of directors.
Expecting visitors on an autumn afternoon, Abby is preparing pumpkin muffins, an inside joke, since friends know she has little interest in cooking. Still, she wants to show all that she can do these days.
The muffins she sets out on her tiny kitchen table are perfectly shaped and taste as good as they look. No one is surprised. Abby has a home now; she has her life back. And it’s better then she could have imagined!
YOU can help us provide new lives for hundreds of people like Abby (whose name we changed here for privacy).
At House of Hope Community Development Corporation, our philosophy is that everyone deserves housing and has inherent worth and the potential to succeed. We’re rebuilding communities and inspiring hope in the lives of people like Abby each and every day, by providing housing, helping access information and services, and healing the trauma that is homelessness. Last year, we served 877 individuals, and helped 106 move into more stable housing situations, including permanent housing. We’re rebuilding vacant homes for use as first-time homeownerships and advocating at the state and national level for the right to safe housing.
Your support makes a difference: together, we are ending homelessness.
Jean M. Johnson
Patricia Wegzyn McGreen
Your contribution is tax deductible to the highest extent of the law.